7 EDUCATION AND 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
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.
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.