It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity. The cumulative long-term effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on direct medical costs associated with doctor visits, hospital services, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Almost 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries in the general population are associated with driver sleepiness, independent of alcohol effects.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the NIH, the National Sleep Foundation, and the Sleep Research Society requested that the IOM conduct a study that would examine:
- the public health significance of sleep, sleep loss, and sleep disorders,
- gaps in the public health system and adequacy of the current resources and infrastructures for addressing the gaps,
- barriers and opportunities for improving interdisciplinary research and medical education and training in the area of sleep and sleep medicine, and,
- develop a comprehensive plan for enhancing sleep medicine and sleep research.
The Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research's report,Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, recognizes that along with the continued leadership of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, a coordinated strategy is required to ensure continued scientific and clinical advances.
There must be incremental growth in the capacity of the field to meet the public health and economic burden caused by sleep loss and sleep disorders. This strategy will require concurrent commitment to the following activities:
- Establish the workforce required to meet the clinical and scientific demands of the field.
- Increase awareness of the burden of sleep loss and sleep disorders among the general public.
- Improve surveillance and monitoring of the public health burden of sleep loss and sleep disorders.
- Expand awareness among health care professionals through education and training.
- Develop and validate new and existing diagnostic and therapeutic technologies.
- Expand accreditation criteria to emphasize treatment, long-term patient care, and chronic disease management strategies.
- Strengthen the national research infrastructure to connect individual investigators, research programs, and research centers.
- Increase the investment in interdisciplinary sleep programs in academic health centers that emphasize long-term clinical care, training, and research.