Our mission is to carry out the following:
We are fostering lasting relationships with patients, physicians, scientists and legislators by identifying and communicating the needs of each in harmony.
For Wake Up America information, please contact:
The need for sufficient, sound sleep has worldwide importance. As industries around the world are increasingly implementing shift work (round-the-clock) schedules, millions of people are changing their sleeping habits. In addition, due to sleep disorders as well as to fast-paced lives, many people go without adequate sleep. These habits can have serious consequences. For instance, automobile accidents increase dramatically among people with sleep disorders. Sleep disorders also cause problems in the workplace that effect society as a whole. The Institute of Circadian Physiology in Boston has estimated that sleeping problems, whether as the result of irregular work shifts or medical disorders, are costing American companies $70 billion annually in lost productivity, medical bills and industrial accidents.
From 1988-1990, the Congressionally appointed National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, chaired by Dr. William C. Dement, has determined the extent to which sleep and sleep disorders affect our lives. The striking finding of the Commission's report is a profound lack of information about sleep disorders pervading all facets of society, including the classroom, industry, and the health care community. This lack of information has resulted in misdiagnoses and mistreatments of patients estimated in the millions, very often in cases where a little knowledge and the right treatment might have worked wonders.
As a result of the Commission's work, Congress created a National Center for Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unfortunately, a budget rejustification act was passed that same year which eliminated funding for all new federal entities. Therefore, although the Center technically exists, it has no funding and no staff to carry out its research and public education missions, which would allow better dissemination of the knowledge we already have, and of that yet to come.
Since 1994, Wake Up America has been working full time toward completing its mission of sleep disorders awareness and education. While there is still plenty to do, together we have made fantastic progress. If we continue at this rate, there is no telling how far we can go.
Distribution of Information
With the establishment of WUA as a central storehouse of information on sleep disorders, our phone number has become widely distributed among people who hear Dr. William Dement or Patient Activist Mike Davis speak, or who pick up a pamphlet at an AWAKE meeting.
The result has been a multitude of calls from people interested in taking local action on sleep disorders. Some have been interested in starting an AWAKE group; some have asked for referral to a local sleep lab. Others have been interested in finding out about sleep disorders, fatigue, and public safety. The library of relevant material has been made freely available to assist in promoting awareness, and it has paid off.
In 1996, WUA information was first introduced on The Great American Sleepwalk web site. There is now a selection of materials relating to sleep apnea and sleep medicine on this web site, The Sleep Well. Most of these are already available by calling WUA.
The most exciting recent phenomenon in sleep has been the exceptional growth of the AWAKE network. From 150 groups at the beginning of 1994, there are now over 235. The groups, as the primary opportunities for patients to meet for discussion and projects, are vital for coordinating a nationwide effort like Wake Up America. It is thanks to the hard work of thousands of AWAKE members that so many elected policy-making officials are aware of sleep issues. WUA has served both to initiate new groups at sleep labs and to aid existing groups in grass-roots activism. Both new and established groups have been actively working for progress in sleep policy through initiatives such as the congressional Health Research Act of 1994.
There are now Regional Wake Up America Activists, who also may be contacted:
Members of Congress are in the position to most directly influence the progress of sleep disorders research--they have the power to fully fund the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research. But unless they know enough about sleep disorders to understand the importance of the center, the chance that will do so is low. Therefore, Dr. Dement and Mr. Davis have made repeated trips to Washington to meet with individual senators and representatives and discuss sleep. The results have been positive. When members understand the prevelance and severity of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation, They become sympathetic to the goals of public awareness and the NCSDR funding.
The summer of 1994's campaign for the Health Research Act was an excellent means of gaining access to congressional offices. Most senators and representatives heard the personal stories of citizens in their districts. They also received packets from WUA detailing the importance of sleep funding. This campaign had a great effect: cosponsors eventually numbered 75 in the House and 25 in the Senate, in addition to those who favored the bill but chose not to cosponsor.
Traveling across the country with the message of sleep awareness, Dr. Dement and Patient Activist Mr. Davis have spoken to hundreds of interested parties about sleep medicine and public awareness. The response has been incredibly positive. Many new local projects have been inspired by hearing a speech on the importance of action on sleep.
Projects such as these are reason for the good cheer of anyone involved in sleep medicine. Public awareness and response has never been so high. Still, there is plenty to do to continue the work of public awareness. The army of dedicated volunteers, together with the full-time commitment of Wake Up America, is set to do it.
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