The National Institute of Health (NIH) is the nation’s medical research agency is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and includes 27 institutes and centres. It is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting clinical and basic medical research, investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. Recently the NIH has updated its plan for research into new approaches to the prevention and treatment of sleep disorders. Over the next three to five years, the institute has recommended research initiatives to include looking at the connection between sleep and circadian systems, studying the influence of genetic and environmental factors that could influence a person’s sleep health, and conducting more comparative effectiveness trials to improve treatments for sleep and circadian disorders.
According to Shurin, acting director of the NHLBI, Sleep and circadian research have made huge strides during the last decade with unprecedented opportunities for improved understanding of the physiology of sleep and the impact of sleep disruption. The institute is taking a step forward to continue further advancement in research, improve understanding of the mechanisms behind sleep and its disorders in order to more science forward and improve health and prevent disease.
The plan expands upon previous and current research programs identified in the 1996 and 2003 plans. In addition it:
- Highlights opportunities to foster a continued dialogue with research communities, which will help promote innovative approaches to scientific investigations
- Addresses training needs for investigators and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration to accelerate scientific discovery and bring therapies to the community more rapidly while improving strategies for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of sleep and circadian disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea.
- Encourages a stronger emphasis on understanding the genetics behind sleep as well as other factors that contribute to sleep disorders and disturbances, such as lifestyle, age and gender differences.
Recent advances and findings, such as the connection between severe obstructive sleep apnoea and increased risk of stroke and elevated blood pressure, provide the foundation for new research and the development of improved treatments. The plan provides an opportunity for future research to continue to define the role of sleep as a fundamental requirement of daily life and learn why a wide range of health, performance, and safety problems emerge when sleep and circadian rhythms are disrupted.
To view a complete copy of the 2011 NIH Sleep Disorders Research Plan visit: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/index.htm