Having missed Tropical Storm Issac, I managed to fly into Tampa to represent the Harvard Division of Sleep Medicine as part of the Huffington Post's Health Oasis at the Republican National Convention. As one might imagine, the site of the RNC is a flurry of activity with delegates, party officials, staff to party officials, media of all varieties and many others, all going in different directions. The Health Oasis was a center of activity with a number of people stopping by to get a massage, a spa treatment or to partake of some healthy food. Our sleep "booth" attracted a fair amount of attention thanks to a "napping pod" right next to us and "promos" by our host, Arianna Huffington. My colleague Dr. Russell Sanna and myself discussed with convention-goers of all types the importance of good sleep health in fostering healthier and more productive lives, and ways to increase the volume of this conversation in society as a whole. These dialogues were punctuated by a videoed interview we had with Huffington Post's correspondent Abby Huntsman. Importantly, although we imparted information on our visitors and viewers, we learned as well.
What did we learn? Quite a bit. Despite current efforts to educate the public, many are still ignorant about the need to get adequate amounts of sleep. Even those who recognize the need for sleep do not adopt lifestyles that allow for sufficient sleep. Importantly, mobile devices are having an increasing impact on society as "sleep-stealers," with many checking their smart phones for messages in the middle of the night. Not surprisingly, obstructive sleep apnea remains the "gorilla" of sleep disorders. I encountered a number of people who appeared to be undiagnosed, including one person who was snoring and having episodes of not breathing while asleep in the napping pod! Furthermore, some who were diagnosed with sleep apnea had failed CPAP therapy and were not being treated, further emphasizing the need for better therapies.
Before moving on to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week, I have a final comment and query. It is troubling to contemplate that during the next two months of intensive campaigning to choose the leaders of our country for the next four years, insufficient sleep -- with all of its negative consequences on cognitive performance -- will be rampant. How many misstatements or errors will be attributable to lack of sleep, and will any of these have a lasting impact on the policies of the person we elect to serve as our next president?
For more by Stuart F. Quan, M.D., click here.
For more on Oasis 2012, click here.