Room S115 of the U.S. Capitol quickly filled to capacity on Thursday May 31st at 2pm. It was a packed house with standing room only for the Congressional Briefing on the NIH Sleep Disorders Research Plan. Congressional staffers, patient advocates and sleep researchers were all in attendance.
The prestigous presenters outlined the significant health and safety concerns associated with sleep disorders. Speakers included Susan Shurin, MD, Acting Director, NHLBI; Phyllis Zee, MD, Ph.D., President, Sleep Research Society; and David Dinges, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania.
Sleep disorders don’t just affect the night and disappear by morning. The effects are pervasive on individuals’ daytime lives – compromising school, work, social relations, cognition, memory, and safety. There are strong correlations between sleepiness and obesity.
As researchers continue to unravel the mysteries of sleep, we are learning a lot about life. For example, recent narcolepsy research is advancing our understanding of the body’s “reward” system, addiction and appetite.
Congressman Michael Honda was tied up in a vote and, despite his best efforts, he was unable to join us. His support was self-evident in bringing us together.
During the question section, I raised my hand and asked about the potential of narcolepsy research. Dr. Zee responded with enthusiasm. Dr. Dinges highlighted how narcolepsy may be a model for many other diseases and disorders on the genetic frontier in the future. I was thrilled to help bolster the importance of sleep research by highlighting narcolepsy in the conversation.
It was a proud day for me. The past two years, the SLEEP WALK has passed in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. On Thursday, our cause entered the building! All are important steps towards recognizing sleep as a health imperative in America.
Thank you Sleep Research Society and Congressman Honda for organizing this event. I will post on my blog if I hear of additional advocacy opportunities!