Updated July 22, 1998



It is imperative that policy makers clearly understand both the magnitude of the problems and the strategy behind the recommendations that will provide solutions. Most Americans are not fully aware of the magnitude and seriousness of the major sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, the insomnias and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The relationship of sleep-deprivation to accidents has been recognized, but few managers or workers understand the natural cycle of sleepiness and alertness or how to reduce sleep-related accidents and errors. Based on these findings, it is imperative that a strong national commitment be directed to sleep and sleep disorders.


The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research has proposed for immediate implementation six basic recommendations that will ensure the greatest benefit at the smallest cost. Even if resources were unlimited, the ambitious goal of changing the way society deals with sleep could not be accomplished overnight. These six recommendations will launch the long-range national plan to create an environment in which research findings and education programs will lead to early diagnosis and prevention of sleep disorders, and reduce the impact of sleep deprivation.

Recommendation One: Establish a National Center

Our nation needs an accountable structure to coordinate education and research on sleep and sleep disorders. The Commissioners unanimously agreed that the best possible mechanism to address the urgent needs of American society would be a national center within an existing Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The Commission recommends that the Congress authorize the establishment of and appropriate sufficient funds to support a national center for research and education on sleep and sleep disorders to be housed within an existing NIH Institute. The Center's activities will compliment the sleep and disorder related research currently undertaken by the various National institutes of Health (NIH) and the Alcohol, Drug abuse and Mental health Administration (ADAMHA), and, through its own award authority, shall encourage and support gap-filling and crosscutting research, and develop new research programs and educational/training initiatives in the field.

Recommendation Two: Strengthen Ongoing Programs

Solving society's biggest sleep related problems must be a national priority. The Commission recommends that federal support for basic, clinical, epidemiological, health services, and prevention research on sleep and sleep disorders be expanded. Existing research commitments by the NIH and the ADAMHA Institutes, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies currently engaged in sleep and sleep disorders research should be strengthened.

Recommendation Three: Accountability in All Federal Agencies

The Commission found a near total absence of overall coordination and accountability for issues related to sleep among widely dispersed activities managed and regulated by the many federal agencies. The Commission recommends the establishment of specifically identified offices on sleep and sleep disorders within all federal departments and agencies whose programs affect or are affected by issues of sleep and sleep disorders, and that the Office of Science Technology Policy undertake a feasibility study for the establishment of a special body to ensure coordination, cooperation, and collaboration among the separate agency-based sleep/sleep disorder offices.

Recommendation Four: Training and Career Development

The Commission identified a serious lack of career and training opportunities for young investigators interested in the field of sleep. Research is essential for cures and better treatments of sleep disorders. Currently, the important research questions far outnumber the available trained investigators. The Commission recommends that substantially increased levels of federal support be directed to the NIH and ADAMHA, as well as to the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, specifically for sleep and sleep disorder research training and career development opportunities.

Recommendation Five: Education of Health Professionals

Ninety-five percent of victims remain undiagnosed, largely because health professionals have not had the opportunity to learn about sleep disorders and sleep deprivation. There is an urgent need for physicians, nurses, all health care professionals to be able to identify and refer or treat patients with sleep disorders. The Commission recommends that Congress encourage and support broader awareness of and training in sleep and sleep disorders spanning the full range of health care professions, particularly at the primary care level.

Recommendation Six: An Educated America

The lack of awareness throughout America about the nature and impact of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation is a national emergency. Witnesses asked repeatedly, "How many preventable deaths are going to occur this year?" "Why don't we do something right now?" "Why don't we save as many lives as possible now not years or decades from now?" The Commission has concluded that the American public has been inappropriately denied the benefits of the research knowledge its tax dollars have supported. The Commission recommends that a major public awareness/education campaign about sleep and sleep disorders be undertaken immediately by the federal government.

Please note: If you see a mistake, or wrong information, please E-mail: Nodmaster. We welcome your comments, suggestions, or notification of sleep related information.

Go back signpost Go back to The Sleep Well Home Page