Expert Talk on Sleep Disorders

December 20, 2011
Health Science Campus, Kochi

“We all experience sleep! Yet why we must sleep and how the brain generates sleep is one of the last remaining mysteries in biology,” noted Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, a pioneer in the field of sleep research.

Dr. Emmanuel MignotDr. Mignot was addressing Amrita fraternity at the Health Sciences campus in Kochi.

The expert who is the Director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Stanford University, United States, elaborated on sleep-related disorders. Reproduced below are the excerpts from his talk.


Serious and often undiagnosed, sleep disorders are quite common. They affect a significant portion of the general population.

Sleep deprivation results in accidents and hormonal changes. Many of the after-effects of unhealthy sleep increase the incidence of cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity as well as cause an increased risk of diabetes mellitus.

The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy. Lot of behavioral problems that children suffer from, are often related to sleep problems.

Insomnia or sleeplessness is a strong predictor for major depressive disorders. Treatment includes maintaining sleep hygiene, light/circadian manipulation, sleep restriction and cognitive therapy.


Sleep apnea is a multifactorial disease. Being the most common sleep disorder, sleep apnea can affect a lot of adults. It increases with aging, causes hypertension and is a strong predictor of stroke and heart disease. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) works effectively for every patient by improving blood pressure and decreasing the cardiovascular morbidity.

Major reason for sleep apnea is compromised anatomy. Soft tissue in the airway stops breathing repeatedly during sleep, preventing deep sleep, causing low oxygenation and resulting in sleep deprivation.


Narcolepsy, the neurological disorder that affects the brain and sleep, is characterized by symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, sleep paralysis and disturbed nocturnal sleep.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS), another sleep disorder, results in the urge to move the legs due to uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the leg. Severe RLS affects the productivity and well-being of the patient.

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