In an address at the National Institutes of Health, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona singled out the public’s understanding of sleep disorders, and the toll they take, as “health literacy in our society at its worst.” The Surgeon General noted that the people who most need to know about sleep problems “are the ones most distant from it, and [do not] connect sleep problems with the multitude of issues, including many preventable diseases, which give us a huge disease burden.” To further emphasize this issue, a report from the Institute of Medicine entitled “Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem”, stated “There is a compelling unmet need for health care providers, health profession students and the general public to increase their knowledge concerning the importance of good quality sleep and sleep health.”
In order to help address this need, the Division of Sleep Medicine has teamed with WGBH Educational Foundation to create the Sleep and Health Education Program - a world-class, web-based education program on sleep science, sleep health and sleep disorders. This program has four goals:
- Help individuals and their sleep partners recognize sleep problems and cross the threshold to medical diagnosis and treatment.
- Provide primary care physicians and other clinicians with the information they need to recognize and respond effectively to patients' sleep-related problems.
- Provide medical students and other health care trainees the educational foundation to understand the importance of good sleep health in themselves and in their future patients.
- Respond to the media's need for information that is credible, accurate and easily accessible.
The primary vehicle by which the program will achieve these objectives is an interactive rich-media Web site that provides the general public, health care students and practitioners educational resources and accessible information about normal sleep health and disease. The information on the Web site is presented in layers so that visitors can acquire a progressively deeper understanding of sleep depending on their prior subject knowledge, learning modalities, available time, and specific need. The first and central module of this Web site, "Healthy Sleep", launched on January 31, 2008, and provides the lay public with videos, essays and interactive features on the science of sleep, why sleep matters, and how to get the sleep you need. A second module, "Get Sleep", was launched in February 2009, and describes why we often don't get the sleep we need, and concrete steps we can take to get good sleep and improve health, work, and life. A third module, "Apnea" was launched in May 2011, and describes the clinical presentation, pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A fourth module was launched in February 2014, and describes the clinical presentation, pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of "Narcolepsy". A fifth module was launched in October 2021, and provides information on the clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment of "Insomnia".