Dying for a kip:the importance of sleep medicine
Medical students get about two minutes teaching on it, and there are only a handful of dedicated consultants. Its time we woke up to the merits of sleep medicine say Andy Currie, Ed Peile, and Chris Hanning
Sleep takes up one third of our lives and yet is one of the most poorly understood areas of human physiology. Animals starved of sleep are known to die in a few weeks,1 and people are no different. Falling asleep at the wheel of a car kills more people on the roads than any other cause, and sleep deprivation has been blamed for many public health emergencies, including the Challenger shuttle disaster and Chernobyl. Problems sleeping is one of the commonest reasons a patient will present to their doctor2 and yet sleep medicine receives hardly any coverage in the undergraduate curriculum.
Sleep medicine in the United Kingdom is currently the preserve of a small number of interested clinicians, mainly with backgrounds in respiratory medicine, anaesthetics, or neurology (box 1). There is no formal training structure or official governing body. The British Sleep Society (www.sleeping.org.uk) has an active membership of clinicians,