Today, March 14, 2014, World Sleep Day is being celebrated all over the globe. This annual event, organized by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM), is a call to action on important issues related to sleep.

This year’s theme is “Restful Sleep, Easy Breathing, Healthy Body,” a three-in-one message highlighting the preventable risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The WASM explains the slogan:

Restful Sleep—How do you know if you’re getting restful sleep?

Good, restorative sleep is continuous and uninterrupted, deep, and of adequate length. If you achieve all of these, you should feel rested and alert throughout the day.

If you’re missing one or more element, your concentration, productivity, attention, and alertness will suffer. Daytime sleepiness can also be dangerous, leading to motor vehicle accidents.

Easy Breathing—People with OSA may not realize how many times they’re waking up during the night, but if your airway isn’t open enough, you’re not getting good sleep.

“When breathing in sleep is an effort, quality sleep is reduced,” says Antonio Culebras, MD, professor of neurology at SUNY, Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, and co-chair of the World Sleep Day Committee, in a release.

One of the most significant risk factors for sleep apnea is being overweight or obese, according to WASM. Extra accumulations of fat in the upper airway can reduce the throat opening, while a large abdomen can interfere with the pumping action of the diaphragm. Recent studies have shown that losing weight alone can eliminate sleep apnea in some overweight people.

Other risk factors for sleep apnea include smoking, which can damage the throat, and large tonsils, particularly in children. Quitting smoking or getting large tonsils surgically removed can cure sleep apnea and prevent the complications of daytime sleepiness.

Healthy Body—Not only can getting healthy lead to better sleep…the same principle works in reverse. Better sleep leads to better health.

Being alert and rested can make you feel more motivated to get regular exercise and eat healthfully, while lack of sleep can leave you feeling lethargic and too tired to move. What’s more, studies have shown that lack of sleep for just a few days disrupts hormone and metabolism levels, resulting in increased appetite and calorie intake.

ResMed Identifies Five OSA Research Discoveries

Sleep product manufacturers are helping to get the word out. To coincide with today’s World Sleep Day, sleep-disordered breathing and respiratory solutions pioneer ResMed highlights its picks for the top five research discoveries about sleep apnea from the past year. Together, the company says, they paint an alarming picture: sleep apnea is on the rise and linked to sudden cardiac death, slower recovery from heart attacks, cancer, and high blood pressure.

1. Sleep apnea is linked to higher rates of cancer.

OSA deprives the body of oxygen (also known as hypoxia), which can lead to higher rates of cancer in patients under the age of 65.

Reference: Association between obstructive sleep apnea and cancer incidence in a large multicenter Spanish cohort (Campos-Rodriguez et al., 2013 Am J Respir Crit Care Med)

2. Sleep apnea increases risk of sudden cardiac death.

“Oxygen is our lifeline,” says Adam Benjafield, PhD, ResMed vice president of Medical Affairs. “When our bodies are deprived of oxygen during episodes of sleep apnea, a long list of negative health consequences can occur. The research shows that those suffering from sleep apnea are at a greater risk of a sudden cardiac death, plain and simple.”

Reference: Obstructive sleep apnea and the risk of sudden cardiac death: A longitudinal study of 10,701 adults. (Gami et al., 2013 J Am Coll Cardiol)

3. Untreated sleep apnea slows recovery from heart attacks.

“This study is important because it demonstrates that if you have a heart attack and also have untreated sleep apnea, your heart will not heal as effectively as the heart of someone without sleep apnea, and recovery will be impaired,” Benjafield says.

Reference: Impact of sleep-disordered breathing on myocardial salvage and infarct size in patients with acute myocardial infarction. (Buchner et al., 2013 Eur Heart J)

4. Treatment for sleep apnea can reduce blood pressure.

Treatment of sleep apnea with continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) therapy reduces blood pressure in sleep apnea patients. Widely accepted as the gold standard, CPAP therapy involves wearing a mask or nasal pillows system connected to a small portable airflow generator that delivers air at positive pressure, creating an air splint to keep the airway open.

Reference: Effect of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) on blood pressure in patients with obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea. A systematic review and meta-analysis. (Fava et al., 2013 Chest)

5. Sleep apnea is increasing among men and women—up to 1 in 4 adults.

The latest data on the prevalence of sleep apnea in adults show that the rates have gone up substantially over the last two decades. Among adults 30-70 years of age, it is estimated that 13% of men and 6% of women have moderate to severe sleep apnea, compared to the earlier results (9% of men and 4% of women). In addition, the number of those with at least mild sleep apnea has jumped for both men (26% to 34%) and women (13% to 17%).

Reference: Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in adults. (Peppard et al., 2013 Am J Epidemiol)

Together, the research findings demonstrate that untreated, sleep apnea can severely affect quality of life, health, and mortality. Sleep apnea continues to be strongly linked to a long list of life-threatening, chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and coronary heart disease as these and other studies continue to reveal. Untreated sleep apnea also has an association with depression, especially in women, and daytime drowsiness, which increases the risk of accidents in the workplace and while driving.

Education remains a key obstacle to effective treatment. Studies indicate that as many as 85% of people who have sleep apnea remain undiagnosed and untreated.

“It’s not just a question of more sleep,” Benjafield says. “It’s a question of better quality sleep, which translates directly to better health. The good news is that getting tested and receiving treatment for sleep apnea is easier than ever.”

For more information, or to take a short sleep quiz, visit

Philips Launches Sleep Powers Initiative

In celebration of World Sleep Day, Royal Philips launched its Sleep Powers initiative for 2014, aimed at encouraging increased awareness of and education around the benefits of sleep and the important role it plays in powering everything that we do.

“Sleeping well is essential to good health and loss of quality of sleep can lead to numerous health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” says Teofilo Lee Chiong, MD, chief medical liaison, Philips Home Healthcare Solutions. “The Sleep Powers initiative aims to draw more attention to the importance of a good night’s sleep and encourages better sleep as a part of a healthy lifestyle.”

In addition, Philips has launched the Sleep Power Quotient quiz, which will grade a person’s quality of sleep based on their answers to simple sleep habit and health questions. Upon completion of the Sleep Power Quotient quiz, any individuals with results that point to poor sleep habits will then be invited to take an online risk assessment test (a STOP-Bang Risk Test). Those at high risk for OSA will be directed to follow up with their healthcare provider.

In 2013, Philips announced its pledge to screen 1 million people for OSA over a period of 5 years in an effort to help OSA sufferers identify and combat the disorder. The company’s 2014 campaign for sleep awareness–including a new visual OSA guide and 7 Tips to a More Restful & Refreshed Youshows Philips’ continued dedication to improving the lives of patients suffering from OSA or other serious sleep disorders and highlights how sleep powers all of our daily activities.

“It surprises me that with all the talk about sleep, we’re still seeing a lack of awareness by the public and health care professionals around OSA and the significant consequences of this serious sleep disorder,” says Mark Aloia, senior director of global clinical research for Philips Healthcare. “We’re looking to beat the statistics and create broader understanding of all that sleep can do to help improve overall population health.”

For more information about World Sleep Day 2014 and how Philips is observing the day in your local area, visit

How are you celebrating? E-mail your awareness raising initiatives to editor Sree at [email protected] for possible publication.