A new position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine emphasises that sleep is a biological necessity, and insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders are detrimental for health, wellbeing, and public safety.

Published online in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the statement notes that sleep is vital for health and wellbeing in children, adolescents, and adults. While awareness of the value of sleep has risen in the last decade, there is a significant need for greater emphasis on sleep health in education, clinical practice, inpatient and long-term care, public health promotion, and the workplace.

“Healthy sleep is as important as proper nutrition and regular exercise for our health and wellbeing, 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 prioritise the promotion of healthy sleep.”

The statement was written by the members of the 2020 – 2021 AASM board of directors, comprising 11 sleep medicine physicians and a clinical psychologist. In recognition of sleep’s significant and multi-faceted connections to health and chronic disease, the authors outlined the following positions:

  • Sleep education should have a prominent place in K-12 and college health education, medical school and graduate medical education, and educational programs for other health professionals.
  • Clinicians should routinely inquire about sleep habits and symptoms of sleep and circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders during patient encounters, and hospitals and long-term care facilities should optimise sleep conditions.
  • Healthy sleep should be targeted by public health and workplace interventions to improve health-related outcomes, and behaviour that help people attain healthy sleep should be actively promoted.
  • More sleep and circadian research is needed to further elucidate 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-centred care for people who have common sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea and insomnia.”

According to the authors, chronic insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders are linked to increased health and safety risks such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, workplace accidents, and motor vehicle crashes.

Data from surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau show that 34.1% of children, 74.6% of high school students, and 32.5% of adults in the U.S. fail to get a sufficient duration of sleep on a regular basis.

The AASM position statement declaring that sleep is essential to health has been endorsed by more than 25 medical, scientific, patient, and safety organizations.