Running Away From Sleep

Tony RamosFlying from Los Angeles to Denver for this year’s Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) conference, I brought along a book, The Ultramarathon Man, which a friend had recently given to me as a gift. The author, Dean Karnazes, documents how he became a long-distance runner who makes running a marathon seem like a warm-up run.

Among other noble and truly wild adventures, Karnazes has run 262 miles nonstop. He ran the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile trail run that starts in Squaw Valley, Calif, and ends in Auburn, Calif. Considered the oldest and most infamous trail run of its kind, it ascends more than 18,000 feet and descends 23,000 feet during the 100-mile trek, which has to be completed within 30 hours in order for the runner to qualify as a finisher. “Karno,” as his long-distance running friends call him, has won the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon across Death Valley in 130° weather—an ultramarathon race that is considered the toughest in the world. And just to add balance to his life, he has run a marathon to the South Pole where he and other runners encountered –40° temperatures.

Each chapter of the book begins with a quote from a well-known person or one of Karno’s ultramarathon running partners. Settling into my seat as the plane prepared to leave LAX for Denver, I opened the book for the first time and found under the heading of Chapter One a quote from one of his running friends, which read, “Sleep is for wimps.” I laughed out loud at the irony of encountering such a quote as I was making my way to the largest sleep medicine conference of the year. Having now read the book and marveling at many of Karnazes’ feats, and shaking my head in disbelief at some of the things he has attempted since the running bug bit this true-to-life Forrest Gump character, I could just imagine what Karnazes would think about the many lectures and poster sessions that were held at APSS. A typical day for Karnazes begins by waking at 2 am for his daily 50-mile run, and it is not uncommon for him to run through the night, while his wife and kids are home asleep.

This year’s APSS meeting was another resounding success. As the publishers of 14 medical/health care trade publications, ranging from the fields of radiology to pulmonary care to plastic surgery, almost every conference that we have attended over the past few years is down in terms of attendance and/or number of exhibitors. Such was not the case once again with the APSS meeting in Denver, where a record number of attendees and exhibitors descended on the mile-high city. There were a number of outstanding sessions and speakers, ranging in topics from “People with Outgoing Personalities Are More Likely to Underestimate How Sleepy They Really Are” to “High Risk Found in Night-Shift Workers for Excessive Sleepiness and Some Sleep Disorders.” In fact, this issue of Sleep Review contains an excellent article on “Adapting to the Night Shift” with a sidebar on “Drowsy Driving” beginning on page 54.

The Association of Polysomnographic Technologists held its 27th annual meeting at the Westin Tabor Center where they presented a special afternoon session that centered around advocating sleep, with a panel discussion on “Why Grassroots Advocacy Is Vital to PSG Technology.” The panel included such luminaries in the field of sleep medicine as William Dement, MD, PhD, Darrel Drobnich of the National Sleep Foundation, and our own Editorial Advisory Board members Jennifer James, RPSGT, of somniTech, and Theresa Shumard, who led the discussion.

You do not want to miss next year’s APSS conference, which will be held June 17-22 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In order to obtain information on the conference, you can contact the APSS at (708) 492-0930 or their Web site at The 2006 conference promises to be another stellar event, and who knows, maybe next year’s keynote speaker will be Dean Karnazes, “The Ultramarathon Man.” Karno may even opt to run from his home in San Francisco to Salt Lake City and explain to everyone how he gets by on so little sleep.

Tony Ramos
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