HEALTH & WELLNESS Healthy Sleep Will Keep You Awake and Alive By Bob Bahr Nearly two years ago, just after the end of the high holidays, Scott Greenhut made a New Year’s resolution. He promised himself that he would do everything in his power to save his own life. His father had died of a heart attack at the age of 62. His mother succumbed to cancer at 44. His sister was close to death in her mid-30s, and at 32 he felt like he was slowly dying. He had found it hard to stay away from the array of fried foods, sugary desserts and empty carbs at the buffet restaurant just behind his apartment off Pleasant Hill Road in Gwinnett County. All those meals of greasy calories and tempting sweets had pushed his weight past 300 pounds. He had no energy and he was always tired. He frequently felt like falling asleep in the middle of the day. Although he needed to lose the weight and eat better, his doctor advised him to start his road to sound health with a good night’s sleep. According to Dr. Scott Leibowitz, past president of the Georgia Association
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But for all those with serious untreated sleep conditions, including sleep apnea, the dangers are very real. In Dr. Guy Leschziner’s new book, “The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience and the Secret World of Sleep,” published last month, the renowned neurologist and sleep disorder specialist mentions the possible consequences of untreated sleep apnea. Leschziner is a guest at this year’s Jewish Book Week in London. “We are now aware that obstructive sleep apnea has a range of long-term implications on our health in terms of high blood pressure, in terms of risk of cardiovascular disease, risk of stroke, impact on cognition and mental clarity,” Leschziner said in an interview with NPR. “And there is now an emerging body of evidence to suggest that actually, obstrucThe medical treatment of a sleep disorder often begins with an overnight sleep study. tive sleep apnea may be a factor in the deof Sleep Professionals, sleeping well is the impact of sleep. And health, in every velopment of conditions like dementia.” A poor night’s sleep has the potential seen as the foundation of a healthy life- sphere of essentially every human function, is impacted in some way by the way to affect our emotional and psychologistyle. cal functioning as well. “In the last couple of decades, quite we sleep.” How sleep affects mental health is For Greenhut, the search for a sound honestly, there’s been an explosion of interest in the field of sleep, in a large part night of sleep began with a fitful snooze not fully understood, but researchers at because of our increasing knowledge of in a sleep study lab. There, sensors at- the Harvard Medical School have found tached to his body recorded his heartbeat that sleep problems are an important and eye movements and the fact that his factor in patients with anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression breathing stopped and attention deficit momentarily almost hyperactivity disorevery minute he was der. asleep, 44 times an They point to hour, a clear sign of brain imaging and a a condition known study of the chemisas sleep apnea. try of the brain sugHe was one of gesting that a good the estimated 22 night’s sleep helps million Americans us to bounce back with a condition mentally and emothat can cause a tionally to face the continuous but temchallenges of daily porary obstruction living with mental in our breathing and emotional resilwhile we are asleep. ience, while chronic The American Sleep Dr. Scott Leibowitz heads the sleep sleep problems can Apnea Association medicine practice at Northside lead to emotional reports that 80 perHospital’s Laureate Medical Group. and psychological cent of those with sleep apnea are unaware they have a vulnerability. Doctors, however, often are not spemoderate to severe case of the condition. The simple solution for many of cialists in sleep medicine and get little or those like Greenhut, who are diagnosed no training in sleep disorders, and many with the problem, is a prescription for patients, like those who suffer from sleep a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure apnea, are hesitant to seek out medical machine, commonly called CPAP, a care. This has been a problem, said Dr. small air pump device attached to a face mask that fits over the nose and mouth. Leibowitz, who practices with the LaureA constant flow of air, under moderate ate Medical Group of Northside Hospital. pressure, allows the breathing passages “Often, historically, people have been a to remain open and keeps you sleeping little bit embarrassed to talk much about psychiatric problems, and doctors were soundly.
Health & Wellness