Sleep — we all like to skip it for the real fun stuff. But is that wise? Obviously not. According to a new position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), sleep is actually a biological necessity, and not getting your fair share has negative impacts on your health, well-being, and public safety.
Although this may not be groundbreaking news to anyone who’s ever skipped out on a night’s sleep, the new statement officially recognizes the importance of sleep for the health and well-being of children, adolescents, and adults. This is a great step towards solidifying the importance of sleep in the public consciousness, and might even nudge people towards getting a little more shut-eye each day.
“Healthy sleep is as important as proper nutrition and regular exercise for our health and well-being, and sleep is critical for performance and safety,” said AASM President Dr. Kannan Ramar. “It is the position of the AASM that sleep is essential to health, and we are urging educators, health care professionals, government agencies, and employers to prioritize the promotion of healthy sleep.”
The statement, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, underscores that sleep is a biological necessity and that not getting enough sleep, as well as untreated sleep disorders, has significant and detrimental effects on health, well-being, and public safety. The AASM hopes that officially recognizing its importance would go a long way towards promoting a greater emphasis on sleep health in education, clinical practice, the workplace, and public health campaigns.
AASM’s board of directors — which includes 11 physicians specializing in sleep, and a clinical psychologist — are the ones who wrote the statement. Here they outline a few key points:
- Sleep education should have a prominent place in school and college health education, including medical school and graduate medical education. Educational programs for other health professionals could further help in this regard.
- Clinicians should routinely monitor the sleeping habits, and any sleep-associated symptoms, of their patients during every encounter. Hospitals and long-term care facilities should optimize sleep conditions, to ensure their patients get enough rest.
- Public health and workplace interventions should aim to promote healthy sleeping habits and behaviors that help people attain healthy sleep should be actively promoted.
- More sleep and circadian research is needed to understand the importance of sleep for public health and the contributions of insufficient sleep to health disparities.
“Education about sleep and sleep disorders is lacking in medical school curricula, graduate medical education, and education programs for other health professionals,” said Ramar. “Better sleep health education will enable our health care workforce to provide more patient-centered care for people who have common sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.”
They further cite data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Child Health Bureau showing that 34.1% of children, 74.6% of high school students, and 32.5% of adults in the US don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.
In regards to the effects of chronic insufficient sleep, the team lists increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, workplace accidents, and causing motor vehicle crashes.
The paper “Sleep is essential to health: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement” has been published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.