You’ve been told before that getting enough sleep is vital to your health, and that message still rings true! Massachusetts man Michael Arnott has a unique type of sleep apnea that caused unhealthy drowsiness in his daily life, despite being extremely healthy in all other aspects of his life.
Harvard University's Division of Sleep Medicine focuses on explaining the connection between unhealthy amounts of sleep and increased risk of chronic disease. Not getting the proper amount of sleep is shown to put people at heightened risk for the following problems:
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
- Mood Disorders
- Immune Dysfunction
- Decreased Life Expectancy
For people with sleeping disorders like Arnott, getting a healthy amount of sleep isn't just all about being disciplined about getting to bed on time. Sleep apnea appears in 3 three different ways, but all sleep apnea patients have problems sleeping because they involuntarily stop breathing while asleep, causing them to stir (American Sleep Apnea Association). Arnott suffers from a moderate form of obstructive sleep apnea. He initially hesitated to be tested for a sleeping problem since he wasn't a smoker and was in great shape from running all of his life. Sleep apnea affects men more often than women, and most people with sleep apnea are at risk because of obesity, smoking, and/or being over 40 years old. In addition, Arnott kicks while asleep due to a form of restless leg syndrome.
Finally, Arnott's wife convinced him to participate in a study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where he was diagnosed. Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of the division of sleep and circadian disorders at the hospital, stresses the importance of sleep as a recuperative mechanism for the body: "It's during sleep that we clear out many of the toxins that build up during wakefulness." Sleep also boosts our immune system. Czeisler recently published a study examining the impact of artificial light on the current generation of human sleep. In his study, he was able to conclude that "access to inexpensive sources of artificial light and the ability to create artificially lit environments must have been key factors in reducing sleep in industrialized human societies" (Journal of Biological Rhythms).
Arnott, like millions of other Americans diagnosed with sleep apnea, was given a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat his condition. The machine is loud and requires the patient to sleep with a mask on his face, and Arnott chose instead to wear a small mouthguard to lessen the impact of his sleep apnea.
Currently, Arnott is experiencing positive results after changing some habits in addition to sleeping with the mouthguard. The next challenge in the battle against sleep-related problems is convincing all potentially-afflicted people to see a sleep specialist.
In the video below, Dr. Czeisler explains in more detail the relationship between sleep and physical and mental health.
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.