National Sleep Disorders Research Plan
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Section 7 Content:
Clinical Education and Training
Public and Patient Education


Scientific Training


A critical mass of appropriately trained scientists across multiple disciplines is necessary in order to address fundamental scientific questions regarding mechanisms and functions of sleep, its circadian regulation, and its role in human health, safety, and quality of life. Sleep research is highly multidisciplinary. The Sleep Research Society's current membership, for example, includes more than two dozen academic disciplines.

This diversity notwithstanding, the number of scientists being trained in sleep research remains inadequate for the many basic and patient-oriented research questions needing investigation. Implementation of the recommendations in this Plan, for example, will necessitate scientific training opportunities in all relevant areas and at all career levels. Encouragement and mentoring of trainees (Ph.D. and M.D.) at the graduate, post-graduate, fellowship, and early career levels is an especially urgent need. Scientific trainees learn cutting edge techniques in stable academic laboratories, which in turn requires a critical mass of established investigators in sleep research. Expanded opportunities to become engaged in sleep research would enhance the entry of young investigators into the field, seeding the future with the needed numbers of sleep researchers in many scientific areas.

Progress In The Last 5 Years

- Although there has been growth in the number of trainees in sleep science at all levels in the past 5 years, the growth has been modest and has not kept pace with the number of basic and clinical science questions.

- Efforts to determine the barriers to attracting more students to scientific work on sleep have focused on (1) lack of departmental or graduate program support for the study of sleep, (2) lack of sleep science training opportunities in established laboratories, (3) insufficient numbers of MDs engaged in sleep research, and (4) uncertainty about career opportunities in sleep research. Recent multidisciplinary conferences involving sleep researchers have sought to attract trainees from other scientific areas to the study of sleep.

Scientific Training Recommendations

- Enhance and sustain entry into the sleep research field of new investigators in the basic sciences and patient-oriented research, as well as researchers with multidisciplinary backgrounds. Expand programs in sleep research training, including the training of investigators in new basic and behavioral research areas targeted at sleep questions (genetics, proteomics, molecular biology, neuroimaging, bioinformatics, etc.) and patient-oriented sleep research areas (clinical trials, epidemiology, preventive medicine). Expand dedicated sleep training programs and provide incentives to existing non-sleep training programs to include sleep research tracks where there is a critical mass of investigators. This would build upon existing training infrastructures and be cost effective.

- Systems neuroscience, particularly neurophysiological, is a strong component of current sleep research. However, the number of investigators in this field is small in comparison to the number of scientific questions. Increasing the number of investigators in sleep neuroscience is thus an important need.

- There is evidence that sleep may have important roles in development, as well as endocrine, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functions. Training basic scientists and clinical investigators in these areas with an interest in sleep research should be encouraged. Currently there are few opportunities to combine training in these areas with sleep research. Training awards that specifically provide incentives to both trainees and established investigators should help close this gap.

- Innovative collaborative training mechanisms are needed, with interactive training provided by investigators from different disciplines with complementary skills. Training investigators in patient-oriented sleep research will be critical in addressing the clinical and applied research recommendations in this Research Plan. Residency research tracks that include sleep research electives are needed. Medical school research tracks that focus on sleep should also be encouraged.

- Research training programs are needed that encourage and support the initiation of small sleep research projects by medical students, nursing and other allied health professionals, and post-graduate trainees in related disciplines.

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)