As more studies demonstrate the link between drowsy driving and accidents, the case for making a person’s sleep history a point of evidence in traffic accident legal proceedings grows stronger. Sleep physicians are sometimes called as expert witnesses in such situations, but before taking the stand, sleep medicine needs to make sure its own house is in order, says Mark Rosekind, PhD, one of the founders of Alertness Solutions, a Cupertino, Calif-based company that counsels organizations on employee sleep education.

Take the example of someone called to testify about an employee whose drowsy driving accident may have been caused by work shift policies. “All it is going to take is one attorney on cross-examination saying, ‘And doctor, tell me what are the policies and programs you have in place at your sleep center?’ and we have just undone everything,” Rosekind warns.

Alertness Solutions, his company, helps corporations introduce practices to ensure the sleep health and safety of their workers; he finds that while it is easy to say people should get more and better sleep, implementing policies to encourage that is hard. “It is a lot easier to tell everybody what else to do than to do it yourself,” Rosekind says.

So how is sleep medicine doing? In January, more than 750 Sleep Review readers filled out an online survey about their own sleep practices and the information furnished to them about strategies for better sleep by their employers. Less than 50% reported that they had gotten information about strategies for better sleep from their employers.

Compared to the rest of the world, this is not bad, Rosekind says. Of the companies Alertness Solutions works with, only about 10% to 25% provide any such information. “But given that their job is sleep, it should be 100%,” he adds.

According to Rosekind, people who provide sleep medicine—and especially those who work night shifts monitoring sleep studies—should know:

• What are the risks of sleep deprivation?
• How much sleep do people need?
• What is a sleep debt?
• How do you recover from a sleep debt?

“This is the stuff we recommend all the time, but we are not doing it for our own people,” he says.

If sleep medicine is to go out and advocate for better sleep health, it should lead by example, he adds. “Try to change those things within your home environment, first within your clinic and then within your hospital,” he says. “That will give you a feel for how hard it is to make these changes.”