Updated NIH Sleep Disorders Research Plan seeks to promote and protect sleep health
Building on scientific advances that link sleep problems to health and safety risks, the NIH seeks to spur new approaches to the prevention and treatment of sleep disorders.
Akinso: An estimated 50–70 million adults in the United States have chronic sleep or wakefulness disorders. Sleep deficiency and disorders are associated with a growing number of long-term health problems including a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and other diseases.
Twery: Sleep is a part of everyone's life. Whether you're young or old, everyone is affected by not getting enough sleep.
Akinso: Dr. Michael Twery is the director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the NIH.
Twery: We think that, that as many as 70 percent of adolescents are not obtaining enough sleep according to survey data by the Center for Disease Control and perhaps as many as 36 percent or more of U.S. adults are not getting enough sleep.
Akinso: Drowsy driving, one of the most lethal consequences of inadequate sleep, has been responsible for an estimated 1,500 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually. In addition, research has shown that sleep disturbances can contribute to a person's risk of developing mental illnesses, particularly in adolescents. Sleep-related issues can affect a person's quality of life, and can contribute to a host of medical, social, and economic conditions.
Twery: In point of fact, this research indicates that this is the biggest threat to health. That not setting aside enough time to satisfy the need for sleep or staying awake too long seems to be the most common problem.
Akinso: To help solve the problems, Dr. Twery explains that the NIH has updated a plan to chart a course for future sleep research.
Twery: One is basic sleep research. We need better understand how sleep is regulated. A second area is clinical sleep research. We need to better understand how not getting enough sleep begins to affect our health and our ability to think clearly and how that affects our mood and behaviors. A third are was sleep disorders medicine. Another area that is very important for the NIH is translation and dissemination research. This is where we want to take all the advances, whether it's in basic research or clinical research and then apply those to actually improve public health. There's a fifth area and that is research training.
Akinso: Dr. Twery says there is a significant opportunity to inform public health research, given the prevalence of sleep and circadian problems nationwide. He adds that the goals outlined in the plan will help bring attention to important questions that still remain about the effects of sleep disturbances as well as the appropriate therapeutic approaches for them.
Twery: It's always going to be important for individuals who feel that excessive sleepiness is a burden to their daily activities to bring those symptoms to the attention of a physician, who can then evaluate whether further study or treatment is necessary. There is no blood test for a sleep problem. And the physician isn't going to see the problem when you're visiting him or her in the office. In fact the diagnosis of sleep disorders and sleep problems hinges on the patient discussing those symptoms with their physician.
Akinso: The 2011 NIH Sleep Disorders Research Plan provides an opportunity for future research to continue to define the role of sleep as a fundamental requirement of daily life and learn why a wide range of health, performance, and safety problems emerge when sleep and circadian rhythms are disrupted. For more information, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov. This is Wally Akinso at the NIH, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Twery
Topic: Sleep, sleep disorders