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Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem
The relative paucity of individuals trained and committed to careers in sleep and sleep disorders research has been recognized by the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR). It identified the need to train investigators as the highest priority among the 10 major sections of their 2003 research plan (NHLBI, 2003). Attracting, training, and supporting investigators in sleep-related research is critical for fueling the scientific efforts needed to make important discoveries into the etiology, pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders. Further, it is also important to train individuals whose major role will be master clinician, organizer and manager of care, and clinician-educator. In 2004, there were only 151 researchers who had a clinical sleep-related research project grant (R01) and only 126 investigators focused primarily on basic sleep-related research projects.1 The small number of research project grants, 331 in 2004, can be substantially attributed to the limited number of individuals working in the field. It is, therefore, of critical importance that further investment be made to expand the number of well-trained investigators in the field.
Many of the strategies described in Chapter 5 to increase the awareness among health care professionals will also likely attract new investigators into the field. These strategies include targeting the career interests of high school and college students, as well as graduate students and students in allied health fields. Further, as will be described in detail in this chapter, increasing the number of investigators in the field will require the National Institutes of Health (NIH), professional societies, patient advocacy groups, and others to significantly increase their investment in career development programs. As a result of the current limited pool of senior investigators and concurrent clustering of senior people at a limited number of academic centers, it will be equally important to adopt flexible mentoring programs that are capable of meeting the challenges.
GROWTH OF THE SOMNOLOGY AND SLEEP MEDICINE FIELD
Somnology and sleep disorders research is a relatively young discipline that has grown significantly over the last 35 years. However, the current workforce is still not adequate, given the public health burden of the disorders (Chapters 3 and 4). Since the establishment of the first sleep center in 1970, clinical recognition of sleep disorders has grown but is still not widely
Abstracts of all sleep-related R01s in the Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) database were analyzed under the following thesaurus terms: insomnia,periodic limb movement disorder, restless legs syndrome, circadian rhythm, sudden infantdeath syndrome, sleep disorder, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, sleep, hibernation, and dream. See Appendix A for further details.