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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/13/11

Sleep Awareness Week: Global Sleep Emergency Persits

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This week is National Sleep Awareness Week

World Scientists Conclude: Urgent need to apply new knowledge in Human Sleep Needs

Dr. James Murtagh is Director of the Eastgate Sleepcare center in Cincinnati Ohio

"To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep." Joan Klempner

San Diego, California- Sleep Scientists from nations around the world met this week to highlight  Sleep Awareness week, and to summarize the year's advances in sleep medicine. Famously, Anthony Burgess wrote that "Laugh and the world laughs with you , snore and you sleep alone." Today, Burgess could only call the nightmare of sleepy drivers a "real horrorshow," and remind us that " every dogma has its day."  Eye-popping studies released by the  Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week reveal that 80 million Americans are sleep deprived, and more than one in twenty drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel. Further, sleep disorders contribute to  diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Persons who sleep less than seven hours a night live shorter and less productive lives. Half of Americans are so sleepy their work, their relationships and happiness are impaired.  Lack of sleep causes depression, weight gain and death. "If there were a fifth horseman of the apocalypse, surely he would be sleep deprivation" concluded Dr. Murtagh. "He would be the palest of the pale riders."

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) designated March 7-13, 2011 as the fourteenth annual national sleep awareness week. As we prepare to wind our clocks forward for daylight savings on March 13, it is time for patients, doctors and lawmakers to take stock. Neither patients nor doctors can now ignore the sleeping elephant.

  Is it an exaggeration to say our society faces a crisis in sleep disorders? The father of modern sleep medicine, Dr. William Dement writes:  "Sleep disorders ..have not been adequately addressed by the medical profession; .. the absence of awareness of these problems relating to sleep is so pervasive and the consequences are potentially so dire as to constitute a national emergency". Richard L. Gelula, NSF's chief executive officer states that " sleepiness that permeates our society has serious consequences, and Americans' poor sleep is creating a public health and safety crisis in need of immediate attention,"

Dement links many of national major disasters, including the Exxon Valdez and Challenger can be traced to sleep disorders.  Maybe "Mothers against drunk driving" need to change their focus to "Mothers against drunk and sleepy driving." If any disease shows that no man is an island, sleep disorders surely do. The average sleep-apnea-induced truck disaster kills 4.2 persons. Friends cannot allow friends to drive sleepy.

             Among the key findings of the CDC research reviewed at the SOTA:

4.7% of respondents say they had fallen asleep while driving at least once in the past 30 days.

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James J. Murtagh, Jr. is a doctor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, and the Medical Director of several sleep laboratories in Southern Ohio. Dr. Murtagh extensively writes on medical ethics. Dr. Murtagh is the founder of a new (more...)
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