A Need for Public and Professional Awareness and Education
Sleep problems play a significant role in numerous medical disorders and relate to almost every field of medicine. Despite the high prevalence of sleep disorders, the overwhelming majority of sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated, creating unwarranted public health and safety problems, as well as increased health care utilization.
Additionally, Americans are chronically sleep deprived as a result of demanding lifestyles and a lack of education about the impact of sleep loss. Sleepiness affects vigilance, reaction times, learning abilities, alertness, mood, hand-eye coordination, and the accuracy of short-term memory. Sleepiness, as a result of untreated disorders or sleep deprivation, has been identified as the cause of a growing number of on-the-job accidents and automobile crashes.
At this time, there are virtually no on-going national educational programs regarding sleep and fatigue issues aimed at the general public, underserved communities or at-risk groups.
The Roundtable will undertake strategies that help ensure that the general public and health care professionals recognize the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders in order to facilitate proper diagnosis and treatment. NSART will also seek innovative ways to introduce sleep information into high school and college curricula.
A Need for Data Collection and Public Health Surveillance
Effective education requires not only informing the public and health care practitioners about the importance of sleep, but also tracking sleep habits and behaviors over a period of time. The development of sensitive surveillance and monitoring systems at the national, state and local level is important for informing heath care providers, researchers, and policy makers about the impact of insufficient or disordered sleep on health and safety. At this time, sleep is essentially absent from federally-supported surveillance systems, thereby limiting the inclusion of sleep-related factors in documents such as the Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People 2020 and Steps to a HealthierUS, as well as coverage by managed care systems.
Better data and surveillance systems are needed to fully assess how sleep deprivation and disordered sleep are linked to morbidity and mortality and other public health concerns. Baseline data and tracking measures are needed to identify clear goals and metrics for subsequent educational programs and intervention models related to promulgating good sleep habits, the treatment of sleep disorders, and combating the consequences of sleep deprivation.
NSART’s Public Health Agenda
NSART is committed to promoting sleep as a healthy behavior, demonstrating its impact on public health and safety and increasing recognition of the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Current NSART Projects:
- Developing a position paper on the health benefits of adequate sleep for promotion by NSART member organizations and their members
- Assembling a repository of public and professional educational materials from NSART member organizations that advance knowledge about sleep
- Assembling a repository of sleep-related legislation and regulations proposed or adopted at in each state.
- Nominating sleep topics for relevant medical guidelines, such as those promulgated by the US Preventive Services Task Force.
- Supporting the development of sensitive surveillance and monitoring systems at the national, state and local level that inform heath care providers, researchers, and policy makers about the impact of insufficient or disordered sleep on health and safety.
NSART Sleep Messages
At the September 12th NSART meeting, CDC led an activity in which NSART members and liaisons drafted short messages about sleep intended to motivate the public. The top three messages that emerged were:
- Good sleep equals good health
- Sleep, the natural energy dring
- Who needs sleep? You do!