Elusive Sleep

Sleepless impact
“In a society of 24/7 access, there aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything,” says Dr. Rahul Shetty, a Toronto physician researching the relationship between cardiovascular health and sleep. 

“Historically, we’re sleeping much less than our ancestors,” he says. “Jobs are changing, people are working longer, and it means we aren’t sleeping as much as we should.” 

He states that a lack of sleep affects judgment, the ability to retain information, and could increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. Studies reveal that sleep deprivation alters the immune system, making us more susceptible to respiratory tract infections and diseases. It may also cause weight gain by impacting how we process and store carbohydrates as well as altering hormone levels affecting appetite.  

Serious sleep disorders are linked to diabetes, hypertension, stroke, irregular heartbeat, increased stress hormone levels and 
depression. “Lack of sleep has a huge societal impact: pick any bodily system and it is 
affected by fragmented sleep,” says Dr. Glen Sullivan, Deputy Director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre in Saint John, New Brunswick. 

The Threat of Death
Steven Boticki, a 38-year-old from Burlington, Ontario, was hospitalized for two weeks in winter 2012 with a case of sleep apnea so severe it almost killed him.

Five years ago, Boticki noticed ‘something was off.’ He’d awaken several times a night and felt perpetually tired. He recalls getting up to wash his face and passing out on the bathroom floor. He chalked it up to a strenuous job and being overweight, but dieting and exercise didn’t help. 

“After work, I’d grab a pop just to make it home without falling asleep,” he recalls. Then, one afternoon, he drifted off at the wheel and hit the curb. Luckily, the only injury was a smashed tire. 

Turning point
Unable to walk up to the second floor at work, he called his wife, who insisted they go
to the walk-in clinic. “They took my blood pressure and called 911 immediately,” he recalls.
Not getting enough oxygen during the night, his heart was working overtime to compensate, resulting in an enlarged heart valve and a blood pressure reading of 210/140 (healthy BP is 120/80). “I was spiraling out of control,” he says. Today, Boticki sleeps soundly with the help of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, a small device beside his bed that pushes air through a mask connected to his nose. “I’m finally sleeping deeply and I have so much energy now,” he states. “I am one of the fortunate ones.”

Taking Control

Dr. Ruchi Shetty, a Toronto-based naturopath, suggests meditation or certain supplements before bed to relax muscles and help the body wind down.