Making Sleep Count

Making Sleep Count

We all know that snoring isn’t sexy — but did you know that snoring could also be dangerous to your health?

“When you snore, you stop breathing while you sleep,” explains Gregory Arneaud, Clinical Director and Founder/CEO of ISD Health Solutions, also known as Island Sleep Diagnostics.

“The airway becomes blocked, which limits the air reaching your lungs, depriving you of oxygen. Despite having a full night of sleep, this can lead to you feel tired during the day because your body has not gotten a chance to replenish itself, which can have long-term consequences for your health.”

These consequences include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • Depression
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other learning disabilities in children
  • Memory loss
  • Weight issues

Gregory Arneaud, the current delegate for Trinidad and Tobago for the World Association of Sleep Medicine, is part of the ISD Health Solutions team in charge of the first Polysonography Sleep Diagnostic Centre. The Centre, which will be based at St. Clair Medical Centre in Port of Spain, will be managed by Board Certified Sleep Physician accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Chandra Matadeen-Ali.

Founded in 2011, ISD Health Solutions is the only company in Trinidad and Tobago that diagnoses and treats sleep disorders, and has over 50 years of combined expertise in the field between doctors, sleep specialists, and registered polysonographists.

On March 15th 2015, ISD Health Solutions hosted a Sleep Disorders Medical Symposium at The National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Trinidad. The Symposium was an opportunity for all interested persons to learn about sleep disorders and treatment options.

“Culturally, we often take sleep for granted,” says Gregory. “But sleep is vital to our body’s optimal functioning, and it is crucial for us to understand not only the importance of sleep but the advances in science and medicine that can help us change our entire lives through improved respiratory function.”

Gregory Arneaud first became interested in sleep medicine through his childhood experience with his grandmother.  “She was overweight and had a host of health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes,” he says. “But it was not until after she died that we realised these issues were all linked to sleep apnea; she snored like a bear.”

This realisation led him to become more involved with researching oxygen, respiration, ventilators, treatments for asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and much more.

Through his career as a respiratory therapist in medical device sales, he began to notice an interest from physicians outside of the United States who were buying equipment for sleep disorders, primarily in the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago — the homeland of his parents.

Gregory realised that there wasn’t much expertise and knowledge in understanding sleep medicine, and he became concerned with the lack of research data for these populations.

“There is a great need for us to learn more and do more in the region on the whole,” he states. “We are actively trying to build this body of work to provide research data that we can use to address sleep disorders in the Caribbean region.”

He partnered with other individuals including experts in sleep medicine, software developers, medical device salespersons and Trinidadian-born Board Certified Sleep Physician, Dr. Chandra Matadeen-Ali.

“Through our efforts, we hope to spread awareness of the importance of sleep, bringing it to the attention of the public so that we can all understand and appreciate the need for sleep in connection with our overall health,” Gregory adds.

Sleep Disorders in T&T

Out of Trinidad and Tobago’s population of approximately 1.3 to 1.4 million persons, it is estimated that approximately 350,000 to 400,000 persons may be suffering from sleep disorders. Of these, the most common are sleep apnea, which is characterised by snoring and results from a block airway that stops your breathing; and insomnia, which occurs when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

The country’s high diabetic population and increasing rates of obesity directly correlate to sleep disorders.

Gregory notes that sleep deprivation can be a voluntary choice in some cultures, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago where there is an active nightlife that intensifies around Carnival season and remains a strong undercurrent in weekly or even daily stress relief for some throughout the year.

“There is also a high consumption rate of alcohol, which exacerbates the problem,” he adds. “The muscles around the nose and throat relax and close off the airway, which in turn increases your heart rate and affects your blood pressure. This destroys your ability to get restorative sleep, and you may experience fragmented sleep patterns.”

Poor sleep patterns can lead to social and relationship problems with loved ones closest to you. This is particularly relevant in the case of your bed partner, who will not only be disturbed by snoring and other manifestations of these issues, but can also be affected by your sexual issues caused by poor sleep.

Sleep and the Workplace

One of the key areas of focus for the ISD Health Solutions team is the connection between poor sleeping habits and the business bottom line, particularly in jobs that use shift work such as the energy sector, which forms the nucleus of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy.

“Sleep disorders can lead to hazards at the workplace,” says Gregory. “A lack of sleep can alter your levels of awareness when awake, impacting upon your reflexes and concentration.”

This can lead to an incident or accident that can cause serious injury and a huge financial impact to the company. Through identifying the potential hazards and addressing patients’ needs on a one-on-one basis, these potential disasters can be avoided.

ISD Health Solutions has done significant groundwork with insurance companies such as Cardia, Guardian, Sagicor, Beacon and Tatil to include the cost of diagnostic testing and therapy in their group insurance policies.

Another key step is spreading awareness to the medical institutions and wider communities, encouraging persons who suspect they have sleep issues to come forward and seek a proper diagnosis from their specialists in the field.  A component of these awareness efforts is a Free ISD Sleep Test that poses several questions at potential sleep sufferers including queries about snoring, weight, and neck circumference. All of these help to pinpoint potential issues that the person may have.

ISD Health Solutions also offers ‘telemedicine’ options, using Webex programmes and Skype to connect communities in the Caribbean to the sleep specialists based in the United States.

Treatment for Sleep Disorders

The worrying aspect of sleep deprivation is that it often goes unnoticed. It is not picked up in everyday routines at a doctor’s check-up because blood pressure, breath sounds and heart rate can all be normal while you are awake.

To diagnose sleep disorders, it is necessary to do a range of tests that can pinpoint the issue.

Apart from the new sleep clinic at St. Clair Medical Centre, ISD Health Solutions also provides a Sleepcare Programme which includes Home Sleep Testing (HST) options for the many sleep-deprived sufferers that would rather be tested in the comfort of their own home.

This service includes Delivery and Pick-up of a Wireless HST Device, the results of which will be analysed and interpreted by Dr Matadeen-Ali; and further to this analysis, therapy options will be provided including sleep machines such as CPAP.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy has been proven to help those with obstructive sleep apnea and is the most effective non-surgical treatment used in adults. A CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway doesn’t collapse when you breathe in.

This is only one of the therapies that have been developed for the sleep-deprived — and, as Gregory points out, many of us that fall into that bracket are not aware that we are currently deprived.

“Many times, someone will have various complaints of pain and fatigue and other issues; and then, after just a few nights of using the CPAP machine, regulating their respiration will show a marked change in the other issues,” he says.  “It just goes to show just how much sleep is connected to your entire body, and how much a good night’s sleep is really worth.”

Be sure to do your Free Sleep Test here.