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Sleep Medicine Education in Italy

Parrino, Liborio, 5/1/2007

Sleep education in Italy has a long story that begins in the1980s, when the national pioneers of clinical sleep research started to meet annually in what was naturally denominated the SLEEP CLUB. Every year, for three intensive days, two members of the main sleep labs distributed throughout the Italian territory attended the meeting sponsored by a drug company that was always organized in a comfortable resort in order to strengthen the contacts between the participants and provide plenty of time to discuss the programmed issues. In 1991 that experience offered the conditions for the origin of the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine (AIMS).


            The first AIMS President was Elio Lugaresi. Since its foundation, the leading group indicated sleep education as a topical mission. In 1995, an AIMS committee established the rules for the official accreditation of sleep center. Among the defined criteria was the mandatory request to spend a training period in an accredited sleep center. In 1997, the first residential course of sleep medicine was inaugurated becoming immediately a milestone in the field of sleep education. Based on a balanced alternation of theoretical (morning) and practical sessions (afternoon) the programmed offered all attendees to spend an entire week in a full-immersion atmosphere with tutors staying in close contact with the students for the entire course period. This year we have celebrated the 11th annual course which has been regularly held in Bertinoro, a beautiful small village near Forlì, with high-standard technical facilities. So far, more that 500 MDs have attended the Residential Courses generally based on a first-half (mostly dedicated to the neuropsychiatric disorders of sleep) and a second-half (chiefly respiratory-oriented). The high-quality of the lessons has encouraged people to repeat the courses even twice in spite of the relatively expensive costs of registration. The model of one-week residential course has promoted shorter initiatives on specific sleep issues, e.g. sleep surgery, still following the original theoretical-practical style. In parallel with the residential appointment at Bertinoro, AIMS organizes every year a national congress that collects all the different sleep-oriented disciplines in a 4-day meeting.


            AIMS has always dedicated training courses to GPs, neurologists and psychiatrists, pulmonologists, child neurologists and pediatricians to improve knowledge and awareness on sleep disorders. A national sleep-well day has been celebrated every year on March 21 in coincidence with the beginning of springtime. Topical results have been achieved through the Progetto Morefo which was developed in a series of successive surveys focused on the epidemiology and management of insomnia in the primary care setting. The results of these surveys were published in 2004 and 2006 in the journal Sleep Medicine and created the premises for a consensus study involving 695 GPs and over 60 specialists from the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine to produce shared guidelines for the management of insomnia in primary care. For the first time GPs were directly involved in producing guidelines of this type, and this approach reflects their pivotal role in the diagnosis and management of this condition.


            Another important initiative is currently carried out by a selected group of pulmonologists who act as tutors of respiratory-oriented sleep labs for 1 year. Their task is to control at regular intervals the quality of the clinical and instrumental performances accomplished during the assigned period and help the local colleagues to improve the standards of services.

A number of sleep centers in Italy receive trainees from the country or abroad who are attracted by high-grade expertise in topics such as sleep microstructure, spectral analysis, and specific sleep disorders. The prestige of the sleep school in Italy can give impulse to the achievement of official academic accreditation such as masters or post-graduate courses. We are working on this possibility which could indicate the specialization in sleep medicine as the common multi-disciplinary house to handle the new chronobiological challenges proposed daily by the 24-hour schedule of our lives.


Liborio Parrino, M.D.


Italian Association of Sleep Medicine




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