First national sleep conference March 29-30 explores sleep's role in public health

March 25, 2004

Evidence linking sleep with behavior, mood, and learning continues to grow. Now, scientists are finding that reduced or disrupted sleep appears to increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The first National Sleep Conference, to be held March 29 and 30 at the National Institutes of Health (Natcher Conference Center, 45 Center Drive), Bethesda, Maryland, will address the latest evidence regarding sleep and sleep disorders, and explore ways to improve public health and safety.

The purpose of the conference is to develop an action plan for implementing clinical practice changes and for expanding individuals' knowledge, attitudes, and sleep-related behaviors to improve public health and quality of life. Sponsored by the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), "Frontiers of Knowledge in Sleep & Sleep Disorders " Opportunities for Improving Health and Quality of Life," will draw more than 500 health care providers, public health and education experts, policy makers, patient advocates, sleep medicine specialists, and others. NCSDR ( is administered by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The depth and breadth of sleep problems is not fully appreciated in this country," U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said. "Chronic sleep loss and untreated sleep disorders have a profound impact on Americans of all ages -- they affect 70 million Americans and cost our nation $15 billion in health care expenses. It is essential that we get the public and health care professionals talking about sleep and the effects of insufficient sleep and sleep disorders, so they can take the necessary steps to avoid the dangers of poor sleep and benefit from improved health and well-being."

This innovative, two-day program will also look at how insufficient sleep and sleep disorders impact the body's immune function, the development of psychiatric conditions including depression, and the progression of other chronic medical conditions such as breathing disorders and lung diseases, arthritis, and neurological disorders. Populations at risk for the detrimental effects of sleep problems, such as children and adolescents, older adults, women, and individuals in certain occupations will also be addressed.

"In the ten years since the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research was established by an act of Congress, our understanding of sleep and related biological processes has expanded significantly," said NHLBI Acting Director Dr. Barbara Alving. "This conference is an outstanding opportunity to develop cost-effective, comprehensive, and broadly applied strategies to fulfill our mission to communicate the latest scientific findings about sleep."

Cosponsors of the conference are the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the American Insomnia Association, the American Sleep Apnea Association, the Narcolepsy Network, the National Sleep Foundation, the NIH Office of Rare Diseases, the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, and the Sleep Research Society.

"We are all affected by sleep problems," said NCSDR Director Dr. Carl Hunt. "Even if you personally get sufficient sleep to feel refreshed each day, chances are you interact with someone who has a sleep problem. It could be your mother, whose sleep apnea increases her chances of developing heart disease; your carpool driver, who might be at increased risk for a car crash because of poor sleep; or your child, who has trouble in school because she doesn't get enough sleep at night.

"These and other types of sleep problems can usually be treated or prevented, but they must first be acknowledged and addressed," added Dr. Hunt. "This conference provides a forum for experts from a variety of fields to take an interdisciplinary, systematic approach to bridging the gap between knowledge and effective health care."

Selected conference presentations:

- Insomnia (Monday, March 29, 9:10 am - 9:30 am)
Dr. Daniel Buysse of the University of Pittsburgh will provide new evidence that suggests that in some cases, insomnia may be a disorder of "hyperarousal." Other cases of insomnia are secondary to other medical, psychiatric, neurologic, or medication conditions, or are associated with other sleep disorders. Dr. Buysse will also describe the effects of insomnia, such as increased risk for psychiatric disorders, decreased quality of life, increased healthcare utilization and costs, and poor daytime function. He will also address behavioral and pharmacologic treatments for insomnia.

- Sleep Disordered Breathing (Monday, March 29, 9:50 am - 10:10 am)
Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) -- including its most common form, obstructive sleep apnea -- affects as many as 4 percent of the adult population, yet it remains significantly underdiagnosed and untreated, especially among certain ethnic populations such as African Americans and Native Americans. SDB is associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, as well as excessive daytime sleepiness and diminished quality of life. Dr. Stuart Quan of the University of Arizona will discuss the latest diagnostic and treatment options and barriers to improving care for SDB patients.

- Sleepiness and Fatigue: Effects on Performance (Monday, March 29, 11:35 am - 11:55 am)
Sleepiness and fatigue contribute to lapses in attention, slowed reaction times, errors in working memory, reduced ability to learn, difficulties with problem solving, and deficits in executive function. Such performance problems have serious consequences for safety ? from drowsy driving crashes (which have a fatality rate and injury severity level similar to alcohol-related crashes) and public transit incidents including airline crashes, to medical errors. Dr. David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania will describe ways to prevent, detect, and treat various contributing factors to sleepiness and fatigue, such as disorders and sedating medications, work hours and shift work, and lifestyle.

- Adolescents/Children (Monday, March 29, 2:15 pm - 2:35 pm)
The impact of insufficient sleep and sleep disorders on children and adolescents can be highly significant, yet they are often overlooked or misunderstood. Many children with behavioral problems -- including attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -- may suffer from reduced sleep, SDB, or restless legs syndrome. Dr. Mary Carskadon of Brown University will report on evidence correlating reduced or disrupted sleep in children and adolescents with poor school performance, increased substance use, depressed mood, decreased self-esteem, poor mood regulation, and excessive sleepiness.

- Women's Health (Monday, March 29, 3:15 pm - 3:35 pm)
In addition to sleep problems common to both sexes, women face specific sleep disturbances during key phases of life. Dr. Kathryn Lee of the University of California San Francisco will describe sleep changes associated with menstrual cycle phases, polycystic ovary syndrome, and shiftwork schedules. Alterations in sleep during pregnancy and postpartum will also be discussed. In addition, sleep disturbances during the menopausal transition, and the effects of hot flashes, night sweats, use of hormone therapy, and ethnic differences will be covered.

Following presentations by leaders in the field of research translation and dissemination, conference attendees will participate in group discussions to identify populations at risk, opportunities for and barriers to improving public health, and action items to address each of the following five areas: neurocognitive, performance, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, and psychiatric disorders.

Participants' overall recommendations for a national action plan will be presented in the closing session comoderated by Dr. Hunt and Dr. William Dement, director of the Sleep Disorders Research Center of Stanford University School of Medicine. The founder of the world's first sleep disorders clinic, Dr. Dement chaired the 1990 National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, which resulted in the establishment of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research in 1993.

The National Sleep Conference program is online at General registration is limited. However, the conference will be videocast and can be viewed online through For more information, call 301-435-0199.

Additional information about the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research and related educational, research, and other programs, can be found at Health professionals and the public may also call the NHLBI Information Center at 301-592-8573.
Other Resources

2003 National Sleep Disorders Research Plan.

Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper Campaign. NCSDR public education program targeting children ages 7 to 11, their parents, educators, and healthcare providers about the importance of adequate nighttime sleep. Launched in February 2001, the campaign includes a Fun Pad with 48-pages of puzzles and games with important sleep messages for children, online quizzes and games, and materials for parents, teachers, and pediatricians. The campaign is co-sponsored by Paws, Inc., the creative studio behind Garfield the Cat, who serves as the campaign's "spokescat." Information about the campaign is available at

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms. Curriculum supplement for high school biology teachers developed by the NIH Office of Science Education (OSE) in cooperation with NCSDR. The free curriculum encourages high school students to explore the scientific process of sleep, the importance of good sleep hygiene, and the negative consequences of sleep deprivation for society. For more information, visit the OSE Website at

Neurobiology of Sleep Onset and Maintenance: Implications for Insomnia. Report of NIH Workshop, September 10-11, 2001,

NIH fact sheet on sleep and sleep disorders.

NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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