“The American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers sleep disorders an illness that has reached epidemic proportions.”

“AASM encourages patients to talk to their doctors about sleep problems or visit www.sleepeducation.com for a searchable directory of sleep centers.”

You’ll soon be seeing that message on news releases and other communications coming out of AASM. It’s part of the AASM PR initiative to raise public awareness of sleep disorders, which I discussed here recently. These carefully chosen words are designed to sound an alarm and get people the help they need.

I encourage you to begin using this verbiage in your interactions with patients and the general public.

Interviewing a number of AASM members across the country, our PR team identified an urgent need to get out the simple, overarching message that “sleep illness is best diagnosed by a board certified sleep medicine physician and managed by an AASM accredited sleep center.”

We know from our daily lives that patients, in general, are keenly aware of their sleep problems. However, they’re also passive about these problems — accepting them as a way of life, viewing resolution of these problems as optional, and not recognizing the potential life-threatening consequences of failing to seek treatment. There has never been a more urgent need to get patients with sleep illnesses in for testing and treatment.

With that realization comes news that help is becoming increasingly accessible to a sleep-starved public.

In a news release that’s part of our public education initiative, we recently announced that AASM has accredited its 2,500th sleep center, setting an all-time high. That’s twice as many as five years ago and five times greater than a decade ago. Clearly, the demand for testing and treatment of sleep illness has never been higher, and our profession is working to meet that demand.

The news release also announced the launch of the public-facing AASM website (www.sleepeducation.com) cited at the top of this column. When you visit the new site, you’ll find that we post something new every day. It’s a great resource for you and your patients. Please consider linking to it from your own sites.

Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll be reading and hearing more about our public awareness initiative.  And so will your patients.

As the final days of 2012 approach, I thank you for helping to advance the field of sleep medicine this year as an AASM member.  Your support and involvement is greatly appreciated as together we strive to prevent and treat the sleep illnesses that are all too prevalent in our society.  I anticipate that the PR initiative will help us make an even greater impact on public health in 2013.

Have a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year!

Sam Fleishman, MD
AASM President