Abstract: Battling Health Inequities through Sleep Health Education Among Social Work Students (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Battling Health Inequities through Sleep Health Education Among Social Work Students

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Hospitality 1 - Room 443, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Christine Spadola, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington
Danielle Groton, PhD, Assistant Professor, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
Background and Purpose: Sleep deprivation has been labeled as a public health epidemic. Sleep deprivation is associated with many adverse physical and mental health consequences and is a driver of health disparities. Social workers often serve as behavioral health providers for vulnerable populations who experience health disparities as well as suboptimal sleep. Thus, social workers are uniquely positioned to promote sleep health among vulnerable populations. Despite this, the empirical literature lacks investigations of sleep health training opportunities tailored to social workers. We developed and tested an interdisciplinary, online sleep health training for social work students.

Description of the training/intervention: The training was approximately 90 minutes in duration and was grounded in an empirically supported behavioral change model (COM-B). The development involved 25 collaborators across seven universities. The Center for Online and Continuing Education (COCE) at the ‘home’ institution provided recommendations for best practices in online learning and provided technical assistance. Formative research informed the development of the training. Based on the formative research, the training included 5 ‘modules’: introduction to sleep health, sleep hygiene, fatigue and fatigue countermeasures, sleep disorders, and sleep health among special populations. The content included mixed media, recorded role plays, humor, and props to bolster student engagement. The COCE team created a digital ‘Sleep Health Badge’ and certificate of completion that students would earn after completing the training.

The research team developed infographics to highlight micro, mezzo, and macro level factors to promote sleep health for social workers working with: (1) individuals experiencing homelessness, (2) clients of the child welfare system, and (3) individuals experiencing a substance use disorder.

Methods: 106 social work students at a southeastern public university were recruited via email to participate in the training. Pre to post changes in knowledge and beliefs were assessed using the Sleep Beliefs Scale (SBS). Changes in self-reported sleep quality were assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PQSI), a validated and widely used instrument. Wilcoxon Signed-Rank tests were used to assess pre- to post-training scores. We conducted qualitative research (open-ended questions and focus groups) to assess acceptability and to inform future training refinement.

Results: Of the 106 students participating in the training, mean age was 28.3±8.8 years, 92.5% were female, 4.7% male, and 2.8% other. The sample was racially/ethnically diverse (37.7% identifying as non-Hispanic White, 34.0% African American/Black, 22.6% Hispanic/Latino, 0.9% Asian, and 4.7% other). Ninety (84.9%) participants completed the questionnaires. Students participating in the training demonstrated pre/post intervention improvements in the Sleep Beliefs Scale (13.76 ± 3.00 versus 16.21 ± 2.55 [p<.0001]); sleep quality (8.20 ± SD 3.63 versus 6.81 ± SD 3.53 [p<.0001]); and sleep duration (6.60 hours ± SD 1.20 versus 6.87 hours ± SD 0.91, [p =.0068]). Qualitative data supported the training’s acceptability and utility.

Conclusions and Implications: An online sleep health training among social work students was associated with improved sleep health knowledge and improved sleep quality; in turn empowering social workers to promote sleep health among the populations they serve.

Support: American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation