Have you watched Ocean’s Eleven? The new one, with George and Brad, not the one with Frank and Dean (which is also an excellent movie by the way).
There is a scene early in the movie that I really love. The characters are trying to drum up some financial backing to rob casinos in Las Vegas. They’re talking with a former casino owner about the idea and his response is “You are both of you nuts!”
So what does that have to do with sleep apnea already?
Well, it has to do with sleep in general and the way that we, as a society, approach it. In essence, when it comes to sleep, we are all of us nuts!
The Promise of Sleep
I’ve been reading through a book by William C. Dement called The Promise of Sleep. I didn’t know who Dr. Dement was until I started to research more about sleep apnea. Imagine, I’ve been receiving treatments for this for almost 15 years but I didn’t know about the man who pioneered sleep research in North America.
Dr. Dement is one of the first researchers to detect REM sleep and the first to use EEG equipment to discover the various phases of sleep (which he colourfully named Phase 1 through Phase 4 — REM was already established as the name for the 5th phase 8=)
He is also one of the first people to document sleep apnea and how destructive its affects are on a patient.
So, I figured that this book was going to be a dry tome full of scientific jargon and dry statistics. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
What I discovered is a relatively fun reading book written by a man who is passionate about sleep.
But this article isn’t about the book, or the man (both of which deserve several articles). Rather, this article is about the message of the book which is the lifelong passion of the man.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
The problem is that we tend to view sleep as something that interferes with life rather than a vital part of it.
We are encouraged to burn the candle at both ends to get a life that is full of career, family, fun. We work hard, play hard and sleep hardly at all.
The Need For Sleep
Yet our body needs sleep. Our brain needs sleep. The more research discovers about sleep, the more we learn that we cannot function at our best without a proper amount of quality sleep. That means that the more we push sleep aside, the less capable we’ll be at handling our jobs, families and recreational activities.
There are many misconceptions about sleep that persist to this day. And the research about sleep, promising as it is, is far from complete. There is so much more that science can learn about the process and the affects that it has on our waking hours.
But we’ve learned enough to know that we are really screwing things up the way we’re doing it now.
Sleep Deprivation is Chronic and Dangerous
Due to the lifestyle that we have adopted in the modern world, sleep deprivation and fatigue are chronic. Researchers studying fatigue have determined that most people don’t even realize how tired that they are all the time. We walk around carrying a tremendous load of sleep dept that we keep at bay with stimulants and stress (for the most part).
But the danger when the techniques we use to keep sleep at bay fail are not worth the price.
- Lost productivity and errors in judgement
- Automobile accidents and accidents at home or the workplace
- Mistakes made by pilots of aircraft or ocean vessels, truck and bus drivers, train engineers
- Medical mistakes in hospitals or pharmacies
Those are only some of the problems that we’re finding.
Learning About Sleep
We need to understand things like sleep debt, circadian rhythms and the various sleep disorders.
We need to learn how to get the best possible sleep that we can (something called sleep hygiene).
We need to make time for sleep a priority in our busy schedule.
We need to ensure that our medical professionals, researchers and governments understand the importance of sleep.
In the introduction to his book, Dr. Dement writes the following:
For most of my career as a scientist, teacher, sleep doctor, and clinic and laboratory administrator, I have worked unceasingly to change the way society deals with sleep. Why? Because the current way, or nonway, is so very bad. As a compassionate person, I have a deep concern about the millions of people whose suffering could be greatly reduced by implementing the knowledge we now possess. It greatly saddens me to think about the millions, possibly billions, of people whose lives could be improved if they understood only a few simple principles. Changing the way society and its institutions deal with sleep will do more good than almost anything else I can conceive, or certainly anything that was ever remotely in my grasp to accomplish.
— William. C Dement, The Promise of Sleep pg 4-5
Sleep at Toxic Habits
So, I’m getting ready to do my part to help people understand. Will you do yours?
This site will continue to grow with the information that I’m learning about sleep and sleep disorders like sleep apnea. I’ve also started an email newsletter.
So here is how you can help:
- Leave a comment to encourage others and share your story
- Sign up for the newsletter (see the sidebar to the right or check the box when you leave a comment)
- Use Twitter, Facebook and other social sites to share the articles (use the buttons below)
- Share the newsletters with your friends
- Learn as much about sleep as you can and share it here
- Start your own blog to share
- Be creative…
Let’s get to it!