Sleep Disorders

One of America’s leading sleep experts
reveals shocking facts about your sleepless nights

By Chris Vaughan

It was 1972, and the pediatricians at Stanford Hospital were stumped. Raymond S., an 11-year-old boy with an array of odd symptoms, had been referred to Stanford because his doctors in the East Bay didn't know what to do. Raymond's blood pressure was so dangerously - and inexplicably - high that the 6th-grader was in danger of damage to his internal organs. Because the boy was also pathologically sleepy during the day, he was sent over to the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, the first and only one of its kind in the world then.

The clinic directors - Drs. William Dement and Christian Guilleminault - diagnosed the boy's disorder as a condition they had only recently named: sleep apnea. As Raymond slept, he would literally stop breathing for anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds at a time, they found. Worse still, this would happen hundreds of times each night. When the boy stopped breathing, his brain would panic, interpreting his body's action as suffocation. The result: His blood pressure shot up, his heart pounded, and he awoke just enough to begin breathing again, but still not enough to remember the incident in the morning. Hence his excruciating daytime drowsiness. Raymond was always sleepy because he was not getting any real sleep at night.

None of the pediatricians consulted would buy the sleep clinic's diagnosis. Raymond's condition grew worse. When the boy started showing signs of heart and kidney failure, his skeptical doctors finally allowed sleep clinic physicians to cut a breathing hole in the boy's throat. The difference was fast: The boy's blood pressure dropped and his overall condition improved dramatically.

Sleep Disorders (Plain text)

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