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New NIH sleep research plan released

NIH-wide initiative details efforts to advance sleep and circadian biology research  

WHAT: The National Institutes of Health’s Sleep Research Plan outlines five goals and nine critical research opportunities to advance sleep and circadian biology research. Key features of the plan focus on studying sleep and circadian mechanisms that underlie health and disease, improving treatments to reduce risks associated with sleep deficiency, understanding the role of sleep in health disparities, and developing a diverse workforce to support this research.    

WHY: As part of the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) was authorized to establish the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) to support sleep and circadian biology research and scientific training; coordinate activities in sleep research throughout NIH, the federal government, public entities, and nonprofit organizations; and to conduct public outreach and education about those findings. The legislation also included the development of a comprehensive research plan to be revised as the science grows and evolves. Today, NCSDR is building on the growth of that decades-long research in new and innovative ways to improve medicine, public health, and the safety of the American public.      

EMERGING RESEARCH: As sleep impacts nearly every tissue and organ in the body, the applications for supporting optimal sleep health throughout the lifespan are vast. In 2017, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to researchers who identified the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms – the body’s 24-hour clock. Today, the field of chronobiology uses this insight to guide public health recommendations and for promising medicinal purposes. For example, medications for asthma, heart disease, and cancer can be taken at different times of the day to optimize treatment. Other innovations include identifying genetic links to sleep disorders, like narcolepsy, which informs diagnostics and treatment. Additionally, as researchers study the role sleep, sensory perceptions, and neural pathways have in chronic fatigue-related conditions, their findings are informing multiple areas of research.   

WHOMarishka K. Brown, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), is available for interviews about the new NIH sleep research plan. NCSDR was established nearly 30 years ago by Congress and is located within NHLBI, part NIH.     

WHERE: The NIH Sleep Research Plan is available online and incudes an introduction from Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIH, and Dr. Brown. To download or review a copy, visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sleep-research-plan. 

LIVE DISCUSSION: NHLBI will host a LinkedIn Live discussion with Dr. Brown on Dec. 16 at noon ET to discuss the strategic vision for the NIH sleep research plan and how it aims to support the health, well-being, and safety of all Americans.       

CONTACT: To request an interview with Dr. Brown or an NCSDR researcher, please email nhlbi_news@nhlbi.nih.gov.  


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