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The Insomniac’s Guide to SLEEP 2024: A Whirlwind Guide to Sleep Medicine's Premier Event

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For five days every June, the most distinguished sleep physicians and enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the field of sleep medicine. This annual convergence, aptly named SLEEP 2024, was the epicenter of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint endeavor of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society. This year, the meeting was held June 1-5 in Houston, Texas. Here, I present a guided SLEEP tour, highlighting the typical agenda contents and revealing the equally enthralling unofficial itinerary.

1. The Official Agenda: A Structured Sojourn

A. Day 1-5: Welcome to the Dreamscape

The opening days of SLEEP 2024 were a blend of excitement and anticipation. As attendees arrived, the atmosphere buzzed with the promise of new knowledge and collaborations. The SLEEP smartphone app became an indispensable tool, allowing attendees to navigate many sessions and customize their schedules. The agenda boasted an array of topics, from clinical practice and basic science to fellowship faculty workshops and panel discussions. Each session encouraged active participation, fostering a collaborative environment where questions and ideas flowed freely.

B. Day 3: Plenary Session

The plenary session is an opportunity for an award presentation and the keynote speaker to take center stage. The grand ballroom was a prime location for the massive turnout of SLEEP attendees. This year, we were honored to learn from the keynote speaker Gina Poe, PhD, on her impressive field of research with “Essential Sleep Features for Brain Remodeling — Importance for Cognition and Emotional Health.” Like a good rock concert, she had everyone on their feet snapping and singing along!

C. Days 3-5: Posters and Presentations

As the conference hit its stride, the poster presentations took center stage. These were laid out in long, orderly aisles, each poster a testament to the research and innovation driving sleep medicine forward. My strategy was straightforward: start at the beginning and systematically peruse each aisle. Engaging with presenters was a highlight, as their enthusiasm was infectious and their insights invaluable. The posters covered everything from case reports and off-label medication uses to novel methodologies and groundbreaking research. Each day featured entirely new posters, making every visit a fresh experience. This immersive process sparked my creativity and inspired my research and how I could enhance my clinical practice.

D. Days 3-5: The Exhibit Hall Extravaganza

Adjacent to the poster presentations lay the exhibit hall, a veritable wonderland of products and technologies. Armed with a coffee and curiosity, I embarked on a comprehensive tour of the exhibits. The hall seemed endless, each booth a potential treasure trove of information. My approach mirrored my poster strategy: a systematic exploration. I engaged with most exhibitors, learning about their products, technology, and purpose in sleep medicine. This two-day journey through the exhibits broadened my understanding and allowed me to form well-rounded opinions on various technologies and products.

2. The Unofficial Agenda: Networking and Nightlife

Beyond the structured sessions, SLEEP 2024 offered a vibrant unofficial agenda. The evenings were filled with events, some invite-only, others open to all. While you might not spot Hollywood celebrities in the hotel lobbies, you’d undoubtedly encounter prominent figures in the sleep medicine community (almost equally as exciting). These informal gatherings were fertile ground for networking and fostering new mentorships, partnerships, and friendships. The potential for professional and personal growth was boundless.

A. Special Events and Receptions

One standout event was the Special Appreciation Reception hosted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation. This invite-only gathering celebrated donors and volunteers, culminating in the presentation of the Sleep Champion Award (spoiler: this year, it went to the World Sleep Academy). Despite the exclusivity, the reception exuded a welcoming atmosphere, honoring the contributions and achievements of peers in the field. Any participation with the AASM Foundation will earn you an invitation to this exclusive event.

3. The Human Element: A Sense of Community

There was a palpable sense of camaraderie throughout SLEEP 2024. As someone involved in sleep medicine training, I felt immense pride watching my fellows present their work, engage with peers, and enjoy the conference. SLEEP provided a unique opportunity for an annual reunion with former colleagues, no matter where their careers had taken them. This sense of a ‘work family’ reminded us of our shared passion for sleep medicine.

4. Cultural Exploration: Houston Highlights

While SLEEP 2024 was a professional gathering, it also offered a chance to explore the host city, Houston. From the awe-inspiring Space Center to mouth-watering Texan barbecue, attendees could indulge in the local culture. Balancing a busy professional life with family and social commitments often leaves little time for travel, so these cultural excursions were a welcome perk.

5. Reflections: Learning, Laughter, and Growth

Ultimately, SLEEP 2024 was more than just a conference; it was an occasion to learn, laugh, build, and grow. It provided a glimpse into the past, present, and future of sleep medicine, reinforcing our commitment to advancing the field. Reflecting on the experience, I am filled with a sense of fulfillment and anticipation for future gatherings. SLEEP 2024 was a reminder of why we are passionate about sleep medicine and the endless possibilities that lie ahead. The environment filled with brilliant research minds and creativity sparked a professional motivation in me that would be difficult to match otherwise.

In conclusion, SLEEP 2024 was a remarkable convergence of minds and ideas, celebrating our shared dedication to improving sleep health. It was an event that blended rigorous scientific discourse with the joy of community, proving that even in a field dedicated to rest, there is no shortage of excitement. As we bid farewell to this year’s conference, we look forward to the innovations and collaborations that will shape the future of sleep medicine. Until next year, SLEEP well and dream big.

Dr. Ascher has no conflicts of interest to report.

Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz

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