It was a eureka moment in college that led Dr. Jennifer Martin to study sleep.
The new president of the board of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) was doing research with the renowned sleep specialist Sonia Ancoli-Israel when she stopped and thought, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do.’
She had been planning to go into education but the experience in the lab with Ancoli-Israel changed her outlook.
“I was really excited to be part of a field where there were seminal discoveries being made,” she said. “And there were always a lot of scientists visiting. I found the whole experience just very invigorating.”
Sleep and invigorating are not two words usually associated with each other but for Martin, the experience with Ancoli-Israel was life changing.
Martin, a licensed clinical psychologist, has spent the last two decades ensconced in the study of insomnia and sleep. She grew up in Northern California where her family has called home since the 1800s. She grew up on a small farm in Sonoma County.
“Most of my family worked in the dairy industry where you work two shifts twelve hours apart,” she said. “Most of them would go milk cows at 1 and 2 in the morning and then take a nap and get up a few hours later and do it all again. Sleep was very different.”
Today, Martin wonders what the long-term health impacts that kind of sleep schedule had on her family. And, like many, when she was in high school didn’t appreciate how important it was to sleep.
“I am grateful that my kids are growing up in a time when people are thinking about sleep,” she said. “The science wasn’t there and when I was growing up and the public awareness wasn’t there, either.”
During her one-year term, Martin will lead 11,000 accredited sleep centers and individuals, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals.
One of Martin’s priorities as president will be for the AASM to collaborate with other stakeholders to identify and prioritize strategies to increase access to high-quality care for insomnia disorder.
“Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders have a detrimental impact on physical health, mental health, mood and well-being,” said Martin. “It is essential for us to sleep well so that we can be healthy, feel good and enjoy life.”
Another priority for her tenure, is to bring the patient voice into the story of sleep research and medicine.
“Care can be so fragmented,” she adds.
Using cases of sleep apnea as an example, Martin says even though we know what clinical care should look like for patients with sleep apnea, there are so many issues that cause barriers to treatment.
“A person’s primary care doctor might send them to a sleep specialist who then has to go back and forth with their health insurance and then treatment is carried out through yet another company and along the way there are many places where care can get obstructed. We plan to work on getting rid of some of those barriers to care.”
Dr. Martin has expertise in insomnia and geriatrics. She completed her clinical internship at Brown University and her post-doctoral fellowship in geriatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Martin received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of California, San Diego, as part of the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program.