Home‎ > ‎Stern Insights‎ > ‎

Why so many sleep disorders now?

posted Feb 22, 2015, 6:24 PM by Thomas Stern
I diagnose several people a week with sleep apnea.  A lot of them are skeptical.  Most of us have never heard of sleep apnea until the past few years.  Now it seems like everyone has it.  Our grandparents never had sleep testing and they managed to survive.  Why is everyone now being diagnosed with sleep apnea?  These are very valid questions.

It was not until the mid 20th century that humans started studying sleep.  It was not until the invention of the EEG that people realized the brain did not just become dormant at night.  There was something going on - and it looked nothing like it does when we are awake.  While humans have been studying hearts, brains, and other parts of the body for milleniums - we have only been studying sleep for about 60 years.  The first sleep disorders clinic did not open up until 1969 at Stanford.  Now they are everywhere.  The first description of the successful treatment of sleep apnea with CPAP was not published until the 1980's. CPAP machines were not commercially available until later.  

Medicine has changed tremendously in the past century.  100 years ago there was no such thing as IV fluids or antibiotics. The recognition of sleep disorders is one of the advances. 

Of course the other thing that drives most advances in medicine is money.  People are willing to pay for drugs and devices they perceive will help them.  Unfortunately the sophistication of our medical economic system has not kept pace with the developments in medicine.  That is not by accident either.  Some people make money by innovation - others by keeping archaic systems in place.  The system will change in the US once people and employers have had enough. Hopefully we all get there soon.