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Good Sleep – The Key to Happiness in Life

Dr. Mohammed Mateenuddin Saleem
Director , Vasavi Hospital, Hyderabad

One of the nineteenth century's greatest literary minds, E.W.Howe, once famously said, "The feeling of sleepiness when you are not in bed, and can't get there, is the meanest feeling in the world." Nothing could be truer. The burnt out feeling when you are neither fully awake nor blissfully asleep, is the worst thing that one can experience. It leaves you so empty, with no zest for life, and barely enough motivation to make it through the day. The modern lifestyle has become so fast-paced, yet we find more and more people today feeling the same way as Howe described.

Makes you wonder, why are so many people running about their lives in a constant zombie-like state ? Lack of quality sleep is the culprit, says Dr. Mohammed Mateenuddin Saleem, Director, Vasavi Hospital, Hyderabad. And he has good reason to put the blame on sleep (or the lack of it), for he sees more and more patients increasingly coming in with various disorders, in different parts of the body. Yet, all these ailments are in someway or the other related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a debilitating sleep disorder that has the potential to kill you, in your sleep.

When you suffer from obstruction of air supply through your nose while sleeping, as happens in case of apnic patients, it sets of a chain reaction in your body that could leave to dire consequences, if left untreated. OSA disrupts your natural breathing, even stops it for a few seconds, and this means that in turn the supply of oxygen is disrupted. If oxygen is not available even for a few seconds to various tissues in the body, all the systems start getting affected. This also impacts the supply of blood to the brain, to the heart and various other endocrine glands. Now human body is a resilient piece of work – it kicks into action various feedback mechanisms to handle the situation, thereby altering the metabolism and leading to newer problems like uncontrolled blood pressure and various CNS problems. In this way, sleep apnea has the potential to affect each and every part of your body. OSA has been proven to be a causative factor for diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and hypertension, kidney failures and a lot many diseases. If sleep apnea is not controlled adequately, it can lead to life threatening conditions like heart attacks, paralytic attacks and even epilepsy.

Yet, we don't find many people fretting over sleep apnea, as they do over diabetes or a high blood pressure. That is because people do not realize the seriousness of the implications of OSA. People spend huge amounts of money over medication for diabetes and high BP, when in fact the real problem they need to be addressing goes undetected. And when all that medication fails to control those conditions, they tend to suffer from psychological trauma. This reduces their performance, memory capacity and the capability to recollect. It goes without saying that this deals a fatal blow to a person's performance at work, or in case of youngsters and students, in their studies.

The trend is changing today though, says the optimistic doctor. Earlier, only 1 or 2 patients out of 10-20 used to accept their condition and agree to undergo treatment, but today you have more number of people coming forward to consult sleep doctors and undergo sleep analysis and sleep tests.

The greatest reason behind this increasing awareness is the cost benefit that people have begun to realize on treatment of OSA. If you diagnose and control sleep apnea properly, your workdays vastly improve, your performance darts uphill and you progress professionally. More importantly once your apnea is under control, other conditions naturally follow suit, thus bringing down the cost of medications and doctor consultations. So more savings, more progress, and even on a personal front, you experience a sea change in relationships. Your body is now properly rested and able to function optimally. Your hormones aren't going haywire anymore and so, your moods do not swing to extremes anymore. Dr.Matheen agrees that overall, treatment of sleep apnea helps increase the happiness quotient in your life. In one line, if you set right your sleep, you set right your life. Like actor Thomas Dekker says, "Sleep is that golden chain that ties our bodies and health together."