FORT COLLINS, CO – With celebrity physician Dr. Oz recently proclaiming that poor sleep is the “single most under-appreciated health problem in America,” the business and clinical practice of sleep medicine seems poised to explode.
While it’s true that Oz has been hammered by Popular Science, The New Yorker, and the James Randi Educational Foundation for “non scientific” advice on non-sleep related topics, it’s also true that he remains a celebrity with ample television time. As such, a proclamation on sleep at least serves notice that healthy slumber is firmly on the pop culture landscape. It can be argued that sleep awareness has arrived like the Beatles in 1960’s America, or Taylor Swift on the red carpet at the VMAs.
Like so many “overnight” successes, awareness has actually built gradually, with study results published week after week in relatively obscure journals. The message comes in different forms, but it all comes down to an inescapable conclusion: chronically bad sleep goes way beyond daytime sleepiness, affecting virtually every aspect of health.
Does bad/shortened sleep help anything? It might help procrastinating college kids make tight deadlines, or propel high-tech start-up mavens to stunning IPOs, but for the vast majority of people, the answer is poor sleep has zero benefits. And over the long haul, poor sleep (ravaged by sleep apnea) can lead to a long list of co-morbidities. These real health problems can take years off of the average human’s life expectancy.
It sounds melodramatic, but it’s the truth. Major consumer magazines, Oprah Winfrey, and the New York Times are firmly on the sleep bandwagon, and they are not jumping off. For sleep laboratory owners, CPAP providers, and sleep physicians, it all adds up to opportunity.
Fortunately, this opportunity (and its inevitable financial rewards) is nourished by helping patients. There is no snake oil element to satisfying the demand for sleep apnea relief—through CPAP, oral appliances, and surgical alternatives. Far from being threatened by diverse treatments, ethical providers know that free-flowing referral streams, based on patient need, will help all concerned.
Long-time sleep clinicians, HME providers, and CPAP manufacturers (such as ResMed, pictured upper left at last month’s Medtrade) are no doubt reading all the hype with an “I told you so” grin, and these grizzled veterans are well positioned to take advantage of increased awareness. If they continue to put patient needs first, the new age of sleep could have considerable legs.
Greg Thompson is the editor of Medtrade Monday.