01 September 2015

September is officially #SLEEPtember

The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) with several partners has launched September 2015 as #Sleeptember to help raise awareness about the public health impact of sleep loss and to help raise funds for more medical research and advocacy efforts.

SleepyHeadCENTRAL proudly supports #Sleeptember and you will find mentions of it on our Twitter feed (@SleepyHeadCtrl), in our weekly news curation every Friday in September and as part of a daily FUN? FACT effort at our blog, where we will be posting regular tidbits about sleep health and well being to support this important effort.
#Sleeptember actually lasts for the entire year, from September to September, 2015 to 2016. It is also meant to be a patient-led and patient-supported campaign, which coincides nicely with the fact that the curator at SleepyHeadCENTRAL is not only a sleep health educator and technologist, but a patient as well.

The goal of #Sleeptember is to advance knowledge about the risks of poor sleep health in the general population using social media tools like blogging, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter (and hashtags!) to help bring ordinary citizens to a better understanding of why things like insomnia, sleep deprivation, drowsy driving and shift work are troublesome and should not be accepted as part of normal life.

Sleep matters in ways that are not merely about getting one's beauty rest: sleep is one of the three pillars of overall health, joining only healthy diet and regular exercise as the third of the three most important focal points for maintaining wellness for one's lifetime.

 ASAA board chair Will Headapoh says it best: “The majority of people with sleep disorders are still undiagnosed and untreated” The ASAA and other associated sleep health partners assert, with plenty of evidence to back them up, that many of us, who are being treated for (unfortunately) common issues like heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, obesity, and mental health, have a stake in practicing good sleep hygiene and ferreting out underlying sleep health problems we may not even be aware we have.

“Our underlying belief is that if you improve sleep, you improve your overall health and can control or better manage some of these conditions," Headapoh says. In that vein, the ASAA not only wants to raise awareness and promote funding of future sleep medicine research, but to actively engage citizens in real behavioral change.

The #Sleeptember campaign was inspired by the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, which the patient-led ASAA participated in the last year. Based on those observations and experiences, #Sleeptember was born.

ASAA's chief operating officer Adam Amdur lays out their campaign strategy clearly: “It’s time for us to stop waiting for the government and academic researchers to find answers alone. Patients want to control our own destiny, raise funds for research, and have a significant say in what gets funded. We are looking to transform recent patient-centered efforts into patient-led research.”

Their goals are quite clear:

VISION—Accelerating patient-led and patient-supported research to get the answers to the questions patients seek.

FUN—We are committed to spreading awareness, education, and support through fun and engaging activities and events. We would rather laugh than cry because it indeed is the best medicine!

ACCOUNTABLE—Because we are patient led, we believe that all patients have the right to determine their treatment, know what happens to their data, and have a direct say in where their dollars go to support research; we will be transparent in where all money is spent. If you don’t know, ask and you will receive!

PARTNERSHIPS—Friends are what makes the world go around and we love making the world go around. There is power in numbers and we all must work together to change the game to help ourselves.

FACILITATE CHANGE—If you are not progressing, changing, adapting, you are stagnant, paralyzed with fear, and withering. You learn more by failures than you do success. Go big or go home!

The #Sleeptember website includes a free, dynamic community forum to engage members in sharing information, experiences and pictures to communicate sleep health's importance not only for individuals but for the larger community. They've also devised a peer-to-peer donor platform that allows members to participate in their peers' fundraising campaigns, challenges and events, or to create their own.

Later this fall, the ASAA plans to follow up with a major announcement about a landmark research endeavor that will tie into the larger efforts of the #Sleeptember campaign.

How do you celebrate #Sleeptember? All you have to do is sign up at Sleeptember.org to become a member and participate at will in the various activities they have to offer there. It will be fun, informational, and motivational and should make a big difference in how we understand and approach our sleep health problems, as individuals and as members of the larger community. All are welcome, whether you are suffering from sleep health problems or a loved one is.

Incidentally, the ASAA is also celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015 (HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!) and continues to take pride in its ongoing efforts of the organization to help increase awareness and education about sleep apnea. The ASAA is well known as the creator of the nationwide A.W.A.K.E. program that brings speakers and workshops locally to patients so that they can best manage their sleep disorder challenges. Most every major population center has at least one A.W.A.K.E. program in the area.

Many thanks to Sleep Review magazine for providing quality source materials for this post.