Developing Sleep-Smart Communities

Sleep is vital to our health and well being. Yet millions of us are cutting ourselves short on the amount of sleep that we get or suffer from other sleep problems. For example, surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reveal that 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month, with 20 percent reporting problem sleepiness a few days a week or more.

At least 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, yet more than 60 percent of adults have never been asked about the quality of their sleep by a physician and fewer than 20 percent ever initiated a discussion.

Poor sleep has a price. Millions of individuals struggle to stay alert at home, in school, on the job and on the road. Tragically, fatigue contributes to more than 100,000 police-reported highway crashes, causing 71,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths each year in the United States alone.

The goals of the National Sleep Foundation are to ensure that:

  1. Americans prioritize sleep for optimal health and safety.
  2. Americans recognize sleep problems and seek effective treatment.
  3. Public and private institutions operate in a manner consistent with optimal sleep for human health and performance.
  4. The incidence of drowsy driving is reduced so that it is rare and an exception.
  5. New sleep discoveries are made that optimize public health, detection and treatment of sleep disorders, & public health interventions.

NSF Community Sleep Awareness Partners— (CSAP) are health care providers committed to promoting public understanding of sleep and sleep disorders and supporting sleep-related education, research and advocacy to improve public health and safety in their communities. Sleep experts and others affiliated with CSAPs join the National Sleep Foundation's efforts to promote healthy sleep and to reduce the effects of sleep disorders. For more information about these sleep centers and their services, visit

National Sleep Awareness Week corresponds with Daylight Savings Time, when people turn their clocks ahead one hour, losing one hour of sleep. Your organization or community can help create a sleep-smart community during National Sleep Awareness Week® or at a scheduled time of your choosing. The following are a number of ideas to get you started. For information about ordering brochures and other educational resources from the National Sleep Foundation, visit Set up a community-wide planning committee with other sleep advocates and partners, such as the public health department, office on aging, police department and others.

  1. Begin compiling a list of media outlets in your community that would be interested in interviewing your spokesperson about the importance of healthy sleep. For tips on how to do this see Part II of the NSF Resources Guide in the 2004 Community Sleep Awareness Toolkit.
  2. Schedule an open house in your store or facility and provide information on sleep diagnosis and treatment. Part I of the Toolkit has tips on how to plan and organize a sleep awareness event.
  3. Plan to set up a display at a local shopping center and distribute public education materials about sleep, such as the "How's Your Sleep?" test and tips on healthy sleep.
  4. Schedule a presentation before a school or community group during National Sleep Awareness Week on how important it is to receive adequate sleep.
  5. Coordinate with the principal of your local elementary school the distribution of copies of NSF's educational activity booklet, Time to Sleep with P.J. Bear and the new Children?s Sleep Diary.
  6. Publish an informative article or editorial about the results of NSF's annual Sleep in America poll in your staff or community newsletter or your local newspaper during National Sleep Awareness Week®.
  7. Host a health fair or display, and distribute educational brochures and educational posters in your local shopping mall, public library, hospital or sleep center, school or community center. Make a display using the National Sleep Awareness Week awareness poster, distribute National Sleep Awareness Week 2004 buttons, and include NSF fact sheets translated in Spanish.
  8. Invite sleep experts and patients with sleep disorders to address employees, students or members of your civic organization on such topics as the dangers of drowsy driving, the impact of shift work, or the special sleep problems of women. You can use the recently updated PowerPoint® presentations, The Basics of Sleep, An Introduction to Narcolepsy, Sleep & Aging Well, and Drowsy Driving, available on the CD-ROM version of the CSAP Toolkit.
  9. For a predominantly Hispanic audience, distribute copies of our sleep fact sheets in Spanish, which address sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep tips, drowsy driving as well as children and sleep.
  10. Encourage family members, colleagues or classmates to keep a sleep diary and then share what they have learned about their sleep habits with their physician. They also can complete the How?s Your Sleep? assessment tool or take our Sleep I.Q. Test. Copies are available online.
  11. Contact local government officials about proclaiming the week as Sleep Awareness Week in their community and encourage their participation in sleep awareness activities.
  12. Address your local PTA about the special patterns of adolescents and the possible impact on school start times, using NSF's Adolescent Sleep Research Report and Resource Guide for your presentation.
  13. Hold a sleep walk to raise funds and awareness for NSF?s sleep research program or advocacy efforts.
  14. Contact local businesses for contributions for special sleep gift baskets to include sleep-related books, recorded sleep-inducing music, coupons or samples of caffeine-free cocoa or tea. Baskets can be used as raffle items for your civic or community organizations, or they can be distributed with educational materials key individuals such as public policy makers, educators, and referring physicians.
  15. Offer to set up a display in an automobile dealership or with your local auto club with NSF?s, Drive Alert?Arrive Alive, materials, including brochures, video and audiotapes, fact sheets and bumper stickers. Also suggest that people visit our new Web site, for tips on prevention of drowsy driving.

Contact National Sleep Foundation Week sponsors and patient support groups such as the RLS Foundation, the Narcolepsy Network, or AWAKE groups listed on our Sleep Links Page.

This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of HME Business.

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