While sleeping too few hours each night can have serious health consequences, we now know that better sleep is a tool that can be applied to many other Great Challenges of health and medicine. More and better quality sleep can fight obesity, help reduce medical errors, improve outcomes for the chronically ill, help special needs children cope better in society, fight stress, etc.
Sleep fights an uphill battle as American society seems to conspire against it. Children set off for school at dawn. Tough financial times push cash-strapped workers to take multiple jobs. Shift work conflicts with the body’s natural clock. Type A personalities push themselves to work long hours and take redeye flights. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is rampant. Med students work 30-hour shifts with no sleep. Teenagers text into the night.
What is the full range of causes (social, medical, technological, economic, etc.) that engender and promote this widespread problem? What are the first-order and second-order effects, and beyond, of sleep deprivation? What would it take, and what would it mean, for America to view sleep as the third pillar of total health, alongside diet and exercise?