Let’s Talk About Sleep

When international sleep experts collaborate, the public benefits

Pop quiz, hotshot. If someone asked you to name the three pillars of health, could you? Sure, there’s healthy food (please stop talking about kale) and then there’s exercise (can I get a New Year’s resolution) and, you’ve probably surmised by the title of this article, the third is sleep. Sound sleep, to be exact.

“There are close to 100 disorders of sleep, but most can be modified and are manageable with the help of sleep specialists,” explains Birgit Högl, MD of Austria. “Most sleep disorders are preventable or treatable, yet less than 1/3 of sufferers seek professional help. Sleep problems constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up to 45% of the world’s population.”

Dr. Högl is also the President of World Sleep Society, a prestigious organization devoted to networking and collaborating sleep specialists and researchers from around the world. (Meaning you must be established in the sleep health community to belong to the society.)

When sleep experts come together from over 75 countries around the world, the public benefits in three main areas: statistics, sleep awareness and international collaborations that further our understanding of sleep and its functions.

Ready to worry about your quality of sleep? You probably should be. Recent studies (many completed by members of World Sleep Society and/or published in Sleep Medicine, a scientific journal) show:

• Individuals who get an entire night’s sleep without any interruptions experience lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses.

• Insomnia affects between 30–45% of the adult population.

• Primary insomnia (insomnia with no underlying condition) affects 25% of our elderly.

• Obstructive sleep apnea has an estimated a prevalence of 17% among men and 9% among women in the United States.

Have you ever rolled your eyes at your coworker because they’re complaining (again) about their lack of sleep? Or perhaps you’re the one being negatively affected by lack of sleep? World Sleep Society has a request: “Be cognizant,” Dr. Liborio Parrino of the University of Parma in Italy states, “that most sleep problems can be managed by changing behaviors around sleep, medical therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy. We hope patients suffering from sleep complaints, or who suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, see a physician and, if needed, obtain a consultation in a sleep center.

Sleep problems are no less important than other health concerns.” Dr. Parrino has also been the Chair of the World Sleep Day® Committee for the past several years. Dr. Parrino continues, “Join participants from around the world in a global call to action about the importance of sleep each March for World Sleep Day.” Created and hosted by World Sleep Society, World Sleep Day is an internationally-recognized awareness event bringing sleep health professionals and patients together for one important common cause: Sleep.

Sleep is such a broad topic it can bring people together in amazing ways. During its biennial congress on sleep medicine, World Sleep Society gathers thousands of sleep professionals to hear scientific presentations led by hundreds of speakers from dozens of countries. This offers a unique lens to compare research taking place in other countries. Through international collaborations, the understanding of sleep, sleep disorders and sleep medicine is increased worldwide.

With organizations spending time, resources and funding on the study of sleep, we are able to better understand its importance in our health, as well as discover other ways to help us get a great night’s sleep. And that point just may help you sleep at night.


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