Healthy sleep: top doctors draw up list of recommendations

[Little boy sleeping in bed with a bear]

The committee of leading medical specialists has published its policy statement in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and their chair says:

“Sleep plays a vital role in human health, yet there is a lack of sufficient guidance on promoting good sleep health.”

Dr. Sutapa Mukherjee adds: “In this statement, with an eye toward improving public health, we address the importance of good-quality sleep with a focus on sleep health in adults and children, the effects of work schedules on sleep, the impact of drowsy driving, and the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia.”

Either side of the optimal duration of sleep, there are harmful effects. The position paper outlines that:

  • Short sleep duration is counted as 6 hours or under in a 24-hour period and is associated with adverse health outcomes, including a higher risk of death
  • Long sleep duration means more than 9 or 10 hours and may also be associated with poorer outcomes.

The recommendations draw on the experience of a panel of sleep health clinicians and scientists, and are based on a comprehensive review of the medical literature.

Dr. Atul Malhotra, a member of the panel and president of the American Thoracic Society, says: “They provide an important framework for promoting healthy sleep on a wide scale, which would in turn generate a number of additional health and other benefits.”

While 7-9 hours is the optimal duration on a population level, different individuals have different needs, and each individual also has a changing requirement through their life – the amount of “sleep needed by an individual varies significantly with age across the lifespan.”

And it is important, say the committee, to see certain groups differently. Children, for example, “are not merely smaller adults with regard to sleep, and differ importantly from adults, thereby requiring specific attention to sleep maturational processes.”