Sleep, the other 30 years of our lives, truly does matter. Sleep is more vital than either food or water and more universal than language or geography. Humans and animals have an absolute biologic need for sleep and must sleep–somehow, someway, sometime.
The very state of sleep allows each neuron to rest, slow down metabolically, and make the space necessary for the brain to drain–literally, so the brain can clean itself and remove the products that accumulate as a result of awake brain metabolism (or brain trauma). Electrochemical, electromagnetic, neurotransmitter and neural network maintenance are modulated by and during sleep, coordinated by the brain’s internal clock in a circadian rhythm (for almost all people). What if we could get a window into our sleep? It can’t all be about quantity (especially estimated by movement as used in most fitness trackers).
The healthcare system can answer the question of whether a person has sleep apnea, however, offers little or no standardized way of measuring sleep quality, especially for people who may not be sick or have a disease that they know of.
Fortunately, the healthcare system largely covers the cost of a range of effective and less effective therapies for sleep apnea, restless legs and insomnia, without ever directly measuring sleep and, in particular, sleep quality. Clinical symptoms and consequences that may be attributable to poor sleep are required prior to initiating therapy for sleep issues, proof of sleep impairment is not. A Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) does not measure sleep, and polysomnography is appropriately reserved for disease. In the case of sleep apnea, a common surrogate measure of an Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI), a measure of sleep apnea severity and complexity, is used to measure compliance and efficacy and an assumption is made that sleep has been repaired.
Technology is not the barrier to filling in the gaps in sleep care. Today, it is possible with minimal discomfort, to record your EKG (ECG) or plethysmography (PPG) during the sleep period and with software analysis measure sleep quality, quantity and pathology including an accurate FDA approved measure of sleep apnea, the sAHI if PPG is used.
Let us fill in the gaps in sleep care currently offered by the healthcare system, and approach sleep from the health and wellness perspective and ask, “what does my sleep means to me”? Make the investment in adequate amounts of quality sleep. All it takes is communication, a validated informative digital tool and clinical sleep expertise to pursue the answers to your sleep questions. Normal sleep is peace of mind and the flip side of sleep is wake.