While speaking to a person suffering from sleep apnea on the phone, I listened as he described why he needed his new CPAP mask overnighted to him. “I get really stressed. I am tired all day. My wife yells at me for keeping her up all night. My life is just plain miserable without my CPAP. So please overnight the CPAP mask to me today no matter what the cost.” Of course, we understood and obliged. Another satisfied customer at The CPAP Shop.
Nevertheless, that got me thinking about sleep deprivation and its effect on a person’s body, their relationships and their overall quality of life. Sleep, along with air, food and water are necessary and critical aspects to a normal functioning human (long-term total sleep deprivation has caused death in lab animals). A complete absence of sleep over long periods of time is impossible to achieve as vital organs including the brain begin to malfunction and shut down. As a tribute to its negative correlation to brain functions, sleep deprivation is has been used in many instances as an interrogation technique and considered by some as torture.
The effect of sleep deprivation on human cognitive functioning has been documented in numerous studies. Alertness and cognitive skills such as memory, reasoning and seeing, hearing and speaking all are dramatically impacted due to sleep deprivation. A simple example is one of trying to drive while sleep deprived; many of us have been in this situation and have felt the nearly helplessness as our bodies try to force us to sleep. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)(LINK) reports that one in every five serious motor vehicle injuries is related to driver fatigue, with 80,000 drivers falling asleep behind the wheel every day and 250,000 accidents every year related to sleep. Being sleep deprived while driving has the same affects as driving with intoxicated; driving abilities, reaction times and attempts by the brain to overcompensate all contribute to potentially fatal consequences.
There have also been studies linking the association of sleep deprivation to weight gain. It sometimes is a “chicken or the egg” syndrome but sleep deprivation has been known to increase a person’s appetite. This potentially can be due to a disruption of hormones, which regulate metabolism and appetite. Moreover, a 2005 study showed people who consistently slept only a few hours a night were more likely to have associations with diabetes type 2. Sleep deprivation has also shown to be negative effects on growth and the healing process.
Interestingly enough, Randy Gardner holds the scientifically documented record for the longest period of time a human being has intentionally gone without sleep not using stimulants of any kind. Gardner stayed awake for 264 hours (11 days). Of course, unless being in the Guinness Book of World Records is important to you, doing this is not something a CPAP user considers as fun. Our goal is sleep, not the alternative. I am sure the conversation I had with our customer can be repeated over and over. Without my CPAP mask, my life is miserable…I NEED MY SLEEP!