Are we better off than now than four years ago? That was the minefield question asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News to Obama advisors yesterday. While Democrats attempt to formulate a coherent response this week at their national convention in Charlotte, we can ask the same question to ourselves regarding SLEEP in society. In my opinion, the answer is quite similar to ones given by Mr. Obama's advisors -- in some respects "yes," and in others, "no."
Certainly, there is now greater recognition by both clinicians and the general public about the consequences of obstructive sleep apnea. Growth in the number of sleep laboratories and the studies performed for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea is exponential. Moreover, there is accumulating evidence linking sleep deficiency to medical disorders such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Sleep deficiency, with its negative impact on performance, also has been implicated as a causative factor in several public disasters (e.g., crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo, N.Y.). However, despite this evidence, our society continues to pursue a culture consistent with "less sleep is better." In the past four years, we have witnessed the proliferation of "sleep stealers." Smartphones and tablet computers have promulgated the FOMO ("fear of missing out") syndrome, with afflicted persons using their devices to check their email at 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. when they should be sleeping! In corporate America, employees are sacrificing sleep for work, leading to less rather than more productivity. In general, when Americans are given a choice between "work or play" and sleep, they choose "work or play," even though more sleep will make both better. This will be very evident here in Charlotte at the Democratic National Convention where late-night events, including the featured speakers, will be the norm.
Unlike Mr. Obama, we in the community of sleep experts and policymakers are not standing for reelection. However, we need to redouble our efforts to engage the general public, corporate leaders and politicians in discussions about the need to encourage healthy sleep policies because "good sleep makes everything better." Four years from now, when we are asked the same question "Are we better off than now than four years ago?" the answer should be a resounding "yes."
For more by Stuart F. Quan, M.D., click here.
For more on Oasis 2012, click here.