Lack of sleep is one of the biggest epidemics in the U.S. today. It’s a bigger epidemic than lack of exercise and poor diet, and it’s led to the emergence of a disease known as Insufficient Sleep Syndrome (ISS), which is when a person regularly fails to get enough sleep.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states cardiovascular disease, cancer, and accidents as the first, second, and fourth top causes of death in the U.S., respectively. Potential contributors to these causes have been identified, and hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on research and pharmaceutical aids to turn around those statistics. Yet high numbers of people are still affected by each of these causes. Why? Could it be that something else is ultimately the root cause of these problems? I believe so.
Sleep disordered breathing and obstructed airways are major problems for millions of people today. The effects of not getting enough good sleep are detrimental to the body as a whole. Everything from high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke to irritability, depression, and early dementia to Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer stem from simply not getting good sleep.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is among the organizations that have recognized the connection between poor sleep and many of the aforementioned diseases. Others seeing the connection include:
- The American Thoracic Society (ATS), which in 2014 reported on a study of 8,500 patients that found a link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and diabetes.
- The National Sleep Foundation, which reported that a study of 3,000 adults over age 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours a night were twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke.
- The journal Sleep, which in 2014 published two studies—one involving adult twins, and the other youth ages 11 to 17—that found links between sleep duration and depression.
- The Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that a 15-year study of more than 10,000 adults found a growing body of evidence that there are strong associations between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and cardiovascular diseases.
The three most important aspects of good health are diet/nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Diet/nutrition and exercise get a lot of attention these days, but there is very little education about the adverse effects of poor or insufficient sleep. Yet there are numerous health issues associated with the lack of oxygen, which is a consequence of being unable to breathe properly while sleeping—airway obstructions are often the cause of poor sleep.
Look at it this way: If you were running a race and 10 times every minute you covered your nose and mouth for 10 seconds, impeding your ability to breath properly. How far could you realistically run with that happening? Not only would your race be over pretty quickly, but you’d also be exhausted and out of breath.
That’s what it’s like when an obstruction in the airway deprives the body of oxygen during sleep. For some people, that happens more than 30 times per hour—in an eight-hour period, they stop breathing more than 240 times, for a minimum of 10 seconds at a time.
Over time, that lack of oxygen affects the body’s cellular makeup. The brain doesn’t get the oxygen it needs to rejuvenate cells and immune systems, and regenerate the neurotransmitters, neurochemicals, and hormones your brain and body need to function properly. The body must go through a four-stage sleep cycle in order for rejuvenation to occur. Without completing that cycle several times each night, a host of problems can develop, and become chronic—or even deadly.
That’s what I believe is happening today. There is an epidemic of sleep disorders that is largely being ignored in spite of the fact that it’s causing deadly health problems.