National Sleep Disorders Research Plan
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Recommendations Index:
Various Aspects
Sleep Disorders
New Treatments

Research Recommendations
Research Training



















The education of health care providers and the public about the role of healthy sleep habits as an important lifestyle behavior and about sleep disorders is important. Current evidence suggests minimal learning opportunities at all levels (undergraduate, post-graduate, and continuing education). The development and implementation of sleep educational programs needs to encompass all relevant health professionals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, nutritionists, psychologists and other mental health practitioners). Furthermore, since many individuals use dietary supplements and other natural products as sleep aids, research findings regarding the effectiveness and safety of such products should be widely disseminated to health care providers and the public. In addition, a rigorous evaluation of the impact of these educational programs is needed to assess their efficacy in changing:

- Professional knowledge, attitudes, skills and behavior
- Clinical practice
- Patient and healthcare provider health and quality of life

Public education programs about healthy sleep and sleep disorders should continue with an emphasis on culturally, ethnically and racially appropriate materials. These efforts should include school-based programs for both elementary and high school students as well as adult educational programs. An assessment of the impact of these programs on knowledge, attitudes and sleep practices of children and adults should be a component of this process.

Recent scientific advances have led to the development of new technologies and methodologies, but these new approaches have not been systematically applied to the sleep sciences. In addition, new methods and approaches not currently available are needed in the sleep field to answer scientific questions and to better diagnose and manage patients. Prominent examples include:

Mechanisms needed to study the neurobiology of a variety of sleep disorders, possibly including the development of relevant human brain banks. Examples include Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Restless Legs Syndrome/Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, sleep disorders for which little is known neuropathologically.

Animal models of normal sleep as well as individual sleep disorders would be highly useful in not only understanding normal sleep physiology, but the pathogenesis of a variety of disorders and their behavioral and physiologic consequences.

Functional neuroimaging techniques (e.g., PET, fMRI, MRS, MEG, NIR, SPECT) are increasingly available to study sleep, sleep deprivation, and sleep disorders-providing insights into the patterns of regional brain activity that characterize both normal and abnormal sleep/wake states. Application of these techniques to the study of sleep and sleepiness should be continued and expanded as further improvements and refinements become available.

Sleep monitoring in rodents, although currently utilized in a few laboratories, needs to be standardized and then made more broadly available so that mouse/rat sleep phenotypes can be easily defined in genetically altered animals.

New methods to measure and quantify the structure of sleep in humans are greatly needed. Such methods should be outcome focused such that what is measured predicts not only the restorative processes of sleep, but also the consequences of disrupting this process. Methods to relatively easily define circadian phase are also needed.

Effective new measures and methods to quantify sleep and other relevant physiological signals (such as respiration) in the home are greatly needed to facilitate both large epidemiologic investigations and the broader evaluation of patients with potential sleep disorders.

Quantifiable, non-invasive, relatively rapid methods to measure sleepiness in children and adults are greatly needed to scientifically understand its causes and consequences, and to predict performance such that the safety of the individual and society can be protected.

Informatics can be directly applied to clinical, neurophysiologic, imaging, and genetic questions as they apply to sleep and its disorders, but are not currently widely utilized in this field. Thus the use of these devices must be expanded.

Women from adolescence to post-menopause are underrepresented in studies of sleep and its disorders. Enhanced efforts are needed to better understand the neurophysiology of sleep and the neuropathology of sleep disorders in women. These efforts should include:

Basic and clinical studies to establish how sex-related differences in sleep and its regulation influence the risk for, and mechanisms of, sleep disorders.

Conduct longitudinal studies in women including both subjective and objective sleep indicators before and during menarche, women of childbearing age including pregnancy and the post-partum period, and women during the menopausal transition.

Study how sleep disturbance in pregnancy affects fetal development and health both acutely and postnatally.

Racial and ethnic minorities have significant health disparities. There is a need for improved data to develop and implement effective prevention, intervention, treatment, and other sleep-related programs and services in racial and ethnic minorities. Elimination of disparities in sleep disorder outcomes should address not only social and environmental factors such as education and access to health care, but also relevant gene-environment interactions. Relevant studies should include:

Identifying the neurophysiological and neuroanatomical correlates and gene-environment interactions contributing to racial and ethnic disparities in prevalence and severity of individual sleep disorders.

Developing effective strategies to reach racial and ethnic minorities in public health education programs for sleep-related conditions.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Department of Health and Human Services (click here) First Gov Website (Click here)
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (Click Here) National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (Click Here)