I’m excited to be attending The Big Sleep Show in Chicago this Friday and Saturday, as Revolution Health is the Title Sponsor of the expo. I’ll be perched in a special sponsor booth, giving out frozen yogurt – so to all three of my Chicago-based blog fans: please meet me there!
To prepare for the event, I interviewed Reid Blank, Chief Executive of the Big Sleep Show, about sleep debt in America and how it impacts physicians. Enjoy the audio podcast or read his responses below.
Dr. Val: A recent poll at Revolution Health indicated that our viewers’ #1 health concern was “getting enough sleep.” Tell me a little bit about how America is doing with sleep debt, and how we compare to other countries.
Reid: As far as I can tell, America is not getting any better where sleep debt is concerned. Most Americans fall short of their ideal sleep requirements by an hour to an hour and a half per night. We have too much going on in our lives and sleep is the easiest thing to exclude. This is probably why the energy drink business has taken off like crazy – it’s now a 3.5 billion dollar industry – and it’s really growing in popularity among 18-23 year-olds. So we’re all looking for ways to solve our sleep debt.
In terms of other countries, there is not a lot of research comparing sleep debt between them, but it does seem that Asians are as sleep deprived as we are. In Europe they may be a little less so.
Dr. Val: There has been a lot of debate about how much sleep is enough. What’s your take on that?
Reid: It’s a little bit obvious, but basically you need as much sleep as feels right for you. On average we need about seven and a half to eight hours, but sleep needs follow a bell curve, so some people can get by on less than others.
Dr. Val: Are there any tests to help people figure out if they’re getting enough sleep?
Reid: Yes, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a good sleep debt questionnaire. Actually, at the Big Sleep Show we’ll be debuting the Glidewell Rapid Sleep Screener which is a web-based tool that allows people to find out (within a couple of minutes) whether or not they’re at risk for a sleep disorder. The National Sleep Foundation and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research also have great websites where people can determine their level of sleep deprivation or whether or not they have a sleep disorder.
Dr. Val: I see that Google has special nap pods available for their employees. Do you think this is a good idea?
Reid: Absolutely. Napping is a great way to address sleep problems and can help to counter fatigue. Every day from 3-5pm we all have a “circadian slump” which is why there are siestas in Latin American cultures and “high tea” (the caffeine in the tea probably counter acts sleepiness) in England.
The National Sleep Foundation sponsored a poll recently and found that as many as 30% of employers were open to the idea of an employee nap program, but only 15% had any appropriate facilities for it. There’s still a bit of a disconnect between wanting to offer employee naps and being able to implement such a program.
Dr. Val: I’d like to see napping programs implemented in surgical residencies. Ha, ha.
Reid: Don’t laugh. At Alertness Solutions we worked with the Veterans Administration hospitals to conduct some pilot programs to put napping in the hospitals. As far as I know initial trials were very successful and they’re working on implementing napping now.
Dr. Val: As a physician, I was sleep deprived through much of my residency training. Some studies suggest that sleepy doctors are not a threat to patients. Do you agree with that?
Reid: Wow, I’m not aware of those studies but I suppose there’s always a counter argument. We’re all human beings and we operate on the same basic principles. We’re not biologically geared to stay up all night and sleep during the day. Shift work makes you tired and makes you prone to errors and accidents.
Some folks with large egos may feel that they’re resistant to fatigue. It’s like “The Right Stuff” syndrome where pilots and astronauts are beyond fatigue. Surgeons and doctors may share that attitude as well.
Dr. Val: Right, surgeons don’t experience the “circadian slump.” What is the Big Sleep Show and how will attendees benefit?
Reid: The Big Sleep Show is the first ever consumer health expo that’s solely devoted to sleep and alertness. It addresses a gap between the education that’s available and the access that consumers have to it. The show puts consumers face-to-face with experts both on the healthcare side and the industry side. They can attend dozens of workshops on a variety of topics such as how napping improves brain function or how you can be prettier by sleeping better.
Dr. Val: If people can’t attend the conference, how can they best educate themselves about their sleep concerns?
Reid: The nice thing is that we are debuting in Chicago but the plan is to create a model show that we can offer in other major cities across the country. We’ve been getting email from people around the country (and even Canada) who want to know how to host a sleep show in their own city. There are a lot of resources on our website, and I also highly recommend Revolution Health, The National Sleep Foundation and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research.
This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.