Public and Medical Community Must Address Insomnia as Public Health Issue
The National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC) along with other leading health organizations, convened under the guidance of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), to issue a "Call to Action" to urge Americans to "wake up" to the epidemic of undiagnosed and untreated insomnia. The newly formed group, called the "Save Our Sleep" (S.O.S.) Forum, expressed alarm that despite its impact on overall mental and physical health, sleep is not considered a "vital sign" of good health in America. The Forum's "Call to Action" is being issued on Insomnia Awareness Day, a part of NSF's annual National Sleep Awareness Weekr campaign taking place this week (March 28-April 3).
"People think that insomnia is a nuisance rather than a serious health problem," said Amy Niles, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Women's Health Resource Center. "As a result of a poor night's sleep, many people can experience fatigue or lack of focus. If they continue to ignore their sleeping problem, quality of life can suffer and serious health problems may arise. There is an urgent need to facilitate increased dialogue about sleep quality and quantity between the medical community and the public."
Forum participants discussed their practical experiences and those of their constituents, as well as key clinical findings about sleep and insomnia. They also reviewed data from NSF's 2005 "Sleep in America" poll. The poll results, released yesterday, show Americans are experiencing a "great divide" when it comes to healthy sleep, with half of respondents reporting they sleep well and the other half experiencing problems sleeping. This information, coupled with data from recent studies associating lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, prompted the S.O.S. Forum's statement. Part of this statement calls for the public to become proactive about addressing their sleep during visits to their medical practitioners, and suggests keeping a sleep diary or using an insomnia assessment tool to track their sleep habits and facilitate diagnosis of a sleep problem.
Chaired by NSF, the S.O.S. Forum members include representatives from leading health organizations that represent the constituencies for which insomnia is a common concern. Among them are healthcare providers who often treat sleep disorders, and groups whose patient populations frequently suffer from the symptoms of insomnia, such as women and aging adults. Members include representatives from the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC), American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), National Mental Health Association (NMHA), Red Hot Mamas, National Sleep Foundation (NSF), and Dr. Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., Director of both the Northside Hospital Sleep Medicine Institute in Atlanta, GA, and the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine.
Insomnia is a sleep problem that is defined as inadequate or poor-quality sleep due to difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep and/or waking up feeling unrefreshed. Insomnia is the most common of all sleep problems and affects approximately 58 percent (about 126 million) of American adults. Insomnia affects people of nearly every demographic, but is especially prevalent among women. Due to higher rates of anxiety and depression and hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, women are also more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Higher rates of insomnia are also present in elderly adults, as compared with the general population; sixty-seven percent of elderly adults (age 65 and older) report that they have trouble sleeping at least a few nights a week.
About the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC)
The NWHRC is the national clearinghouse for women's health information. Since the late 1980's the NWHRC, has helped millions of women educate themselves about the health topics that concern them the most. The non-profit organization, dedicated to helping women make informed decisions about their health, encourages women to embrace healthy lifestyles to promote wellness and prevent disease.
About the National Sleep Foundation (NSF)
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting education, sleep-related research, and advocacy. To learn more about insomnia and other sleep issues, and for state-of-the-art assessment tools and interactive quizzes, visit NSF's newly redesigned Web site: http//www.sleepfoundation.org.
The S.O.S. Forum was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Sepracor Inc.