A sea change is required in the way our society views sleep and sleep disorders before the performance impairments and accident risk associated with drowsy driving is taken just as seriously as that of drunk driving. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk, and claims just as many victims on the nation’s highways. Health, safety, education, and productivity are major priorities in our society, but sleep (which is critical to all of these) still is not. 

By making accurate information readily available in the public domain, we can begin to make effective demands on the medical system to provide proper training of physicians and proper care of patients, of the legislature and other relevant bodies to change public policy, and of third party payers to cover sleep medicine costs. These demands in turn will impact the decisions of funding agencies to prioritize sleep research, of governmental agencies and employers to change working conditions to recognize the relationship between good sleep patterns and maximal productivity and safety, and of educators, schools, and students to make similar changes to maximize learning, motivation, and even happiness. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School is working to create this change through its Sleep and Health Education Program

The Sleep Matters Initiative (SMI), led by clinicians and researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, aims to implement evidence-based clinical treatments for sleep and circadian disorders, and to change the culture of sleep. SMI aims to improve health, safety, performance and well-being of people worldwide by translating cutting-edge research on sleep and circadian rhythms into practice. Education and screening is provided through the SMI's Sleep Health and Wellness Programs.

As part of the SMI, The Division in conjunction with its non-profit partner, Healthy Hours, has developed a initiative to educate high school and college students about the beneficial impact of healthy sleep practices on enhancing physical health, mental and academic performance. This award winning program, Sleep 101, has been implemented in high schools, colleges and universities nationwide.

Founded in 2001, the Harvard Work Hours Health and Safety Group, is a multi-disciplinary collaborative whose mission is to investigate sleep and work practices among physicians, police officers, fire fighters, and other occupational groups, and implement strategies and education to improve the safety of patients, workers, and the general public. 

The Sleep Apnea Patient Centered Outcomes Network (SAPCON) and its web portal (www.MyApnea.Org) is an online network developed to meet the needs of patients with sleep apnea by providing access to educational resources that are reliable and up-to-date, community for patients to support one another, and opportunities to collaborate in clinical research. The portal -developed in partnership with patients, clinicians and researchers- hosts a Forum for patients and other stakeholders to ask and answer questions, articles (in blog format) for sharing information on sleep apnea, and opportunities to participate in research. Additionally, the portal will soon house a more extensive repository of materials for patients, including a patient toolkit and links to veritable resources on the Internet.

Resources

"Healthy Sleep" website from the HMS Division of Sleep Medicine and WGBH
"The Price of Fatigue" (328kb) McKinsey & Co report on the economic costs of unmanaged sleep apnea
2009 Massachusetts Drowsy Driving Commission Report (pdf 258kb) and Report Appendices (pdf 816kb)
PBS NOVA Science "Why Do We Need Sleep?", Video Transcript Only
NASA Connect "The Right Ratio of Rest", Program for Middle School Students
Harvard At Home online learning program: "Sleep, Dreams and Memory"
Harvard Work Hours and Safety Group
MyApnea.org