Author Archives: Lalaina Rabary

Sleep Apnea, A Health Epidemic That is Finally Being Recognized

Written by Darrel Drobnich, President, American Sleep Apnea Association

darrel-drobnichFor more than twenty years, a small but dedicated group of sleep professionals and advocates have been working to bring sleep into the mainstream of public health. It’s been a tough and under-funded slog, but these efforts are starting to have real pay offs in getting the data and recognition we need as organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all while organizations such as the National Geographic and celebrities such as Arianna Huffington and others help raise awareness. Hopefully, with new and growing partners we will be able to address many of the systematic issues that remain, especially related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Sleep problems, whether in the form of medical disorders or related to work schedules and a
24/7 lifestyle, are ubiquitous in our society. It is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes. Sleep disorders are common in both men and women; however, important disparities in prevalence and severity of certain sleep disorders have been identified in minorities and underserved populations. Despite the high prevalence of sleep disorders, the overwhelming majority of sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated, creating unnecessary public health and safety problems, as well as increased health care expenses. This can be viewed as a failure of traditional healthcare system.

Sleep science and federal reports have clearly detailed the importance of sleep to health, safety, productivity and well-being, yet studies continue to show that millions of Americans remain at risk for serious health and safety consequences of untreated sleep disorders and inadequate sleep, due to a lack of awareness, community interventions, and inadequate screening. Unfortunately, despite recommendations in numerous federal reports, there is still a lack of epidemiological data, large clinical trials and no on-going national educational programs regarding sleep issues aimed at the general public, health care professionals, underserved communities or major at-risk groups. We must change this paradigm if we are to meet the challenges of a growing and aging population. I believe that patients acting as “disrupters” will have to help lead this change especially in the area of sleep apnea.

One of the most devastating sleep disorders is obstructive sleep apnea, a prevalent chronic sleep and breathing disorder characterized by repeated stops or near stops of breathing during sleep due to collapse of the tissues in the airway. These breathing episodes last 10 seconds or more, and cause repeated sleep disruptions and oxygen desaturations that lead to important health consequences. OSA affects 17% of adults and over 25% of older adults, with rates increasing in association with the obesity epidemic. Sleep apnea aggregates in families, affects all age groups, and disproportionately affects minorities and those from poor neighborhoods. Sleep apnea requires immediate and ongoing therapy because it lowers blood-oxygen levels and disrupts sleep, and is associated with some of America’s other most pressing health problems including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, and early mortality and results in an increase of depression, anxiety, cognitive issues, erectile dysfunction, irritability, daytime sleepiness and motor vehicle crashes.

Sleep apnea affects people of all ages and genders. However, there are factors which may put some at greater risk including:
• A family history of sleep apnea
• Being overweight
• Having a large neck (17 inches or greater for men, 16 inches or greater for women)
• Being 40 years of age or older
• Having a small upper airway
• Having a recessed chin, small jaw or a large overbite
• Smoking and alcohol use
• Ethnicity

Symptoms of sleep apnea:

• Loud snoring
• Morning headaches and nausea
• Gasping or choking while sleeping
• Loss of sex drive/impotence
• Excessive daytime sleepiness
• Irritability and/or feelings depression
• Frequent nighttime urination
• Concentration and memory problems

If you have a sleep problem like sleep apnea, you should ask your physician refer you to a sleep lab or clinic where you will participate in a sleep study either in a clinic or at home. Don’t give up until your primary care or other physician understands your concerns and makes the proper referrals.

People with chronic health issues or just people in general need to take charge of their well being and ask questions and demand answers whether it’s in healthcare, research or access to care. Groups like the American Sleep Apnea Association and People for Quality Care are working together to further empower patients and other stakeholders through programs like and the SleepHealth Mobile App Study.

Map connections between your sleep habits and health with the SleepHealth App!

Written by: Darrel Drobnich, President, American Sleep Apnea Association 

On March 2, the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) announced the most significant and important event in our 25-year history with the release of the SleepHealth Mobile App Study in partnership with IBM Watson.

SleepHealth App - American Sleep Apnea Association The SleepHealth app is designed for iPhone, iPod Touch and Apple Watch to help identify connections between sleep habits and health outcomes. The SleepHealth study uses the open source Apple ResearchKit to enable participants to easily complete tasks and submit surveys right from the SleepHealth app. SleepHealth is the first ResearchKit study to run on the data-rich Watson Health Cloud and represents a year’s worth of work.

The app and study was designed and funded solely through the contributions of a small all-patient volunteer team of scientists, physicians, advocates and technology experts in the leadership of the ASAA with the desire to accelerate treatments, interventions and cures for sleep disorders and sleep issues associated with common on chronic medical conditions.

People spend about a third of their lives asleep, and it greatly impacts their health and quality of life.  Yet, in America, 70% of adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night.It is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes. Sleep disorders are common in both men and women; however, important disparities in prevalence and severity of certain sleep disorders have been identified in minorities and underserved populations.

Despite the high prevalence of sleep disorders, the overwhelming majority of sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated, creating unnecessary public health and safety problems, as well as increased health care expenses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared insufficient sleep “a public health epidemic”   The ASAA looks to take these challenges head on.

Only 16% of people say that they or their family members have ever participated in clinical trials for many reasons including lack of awareness and trust.  We firmly believe that patients need to be directly involved creating new research opportunities and use technology, social marketing and peer-to-peer support outside of traditional academic institutions. That is why we personally invested in and created the SleepHealth Study.


The SleepHealth study app collects specific data such as sleep quality and duration, chronic sleep and health issues and daytime sleepiness; tracks self-reported data such as exercise, mood, and caffeine and alcohol use; and allows users to input other types of data that can impact sleep, such as a work schedule, and answer standardized questions related to personal and family medical history, general well-being, sleep and health habits, and daily activities. The study includes a simple and fun objective measure of alertness and sleepiness that is administered at least once a day as part of a 7-Day SleepHealth Check-In that is repeated every three months.


With the SleepHealth study, the ASAA ushers in a new era in patient-led research and announces our commitment to create the world’s largest longitudinal study of healthy and unhealthy sleepers with an open-source repository of sleep and alertness-related data based on standardized questions and validated tools. We’ve made life the laboratory, we’re crowd-sourcing data and ideas from people in the United States and eventually worldwide, and from these participants we’re gathering active and passive types of data to advance an understanding of sleep and its impact on productivity, daytime activities, general health and chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and obesity amongst many others. Furthermore, SleepHealth benefits from the user-friendly Apple Watch and other wearables and our study will get ‘smarter’ over time thanks to Watson and the direct input and feedback of users at our Sleeptember website.

The back-end data solution is provided via Watson Health for ResearchKit, which runs on the secure, HIPAA-enabled Watson Health Cloud and enables researchers to combine data collected via the SleepHealth app with diverse data sources such as medical literature, treatment guidelines, claims data and clinical data. Researchers can also opt to apply Watson Analytics for deeper insights from the data.

After several years of data collection, our research team hopes to develop personalized and public health interventions for a variety of sleep-related health issues, for example helping athletes optimize training before a big event, mitigating fatigue in the workplace, or detecting early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and mental health disorders.


The SleepHealth app is available to anyone in the U.S. as a free download from the App Store, with plans for global expansion in the near future. Study participants must be at least 18 years of age and understand English. The app includes a simple process to ensure informed consent for participation in the study. To help maintain participant privacy, subject names are removed from the study data. For more information about the SleepHealth Mobile App Study, visit or download directly from the Apple store at


The American Sleep Apnea Association joins the Sleep Journal as a contributor

People for Quality Care is pleased to welcome a new contributor to the Sleep Journal - the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA). The ASAA is one of the nation’s leading organizations in promoting quality sleep and supporting those with sleep disorders. The organization’s vast knowledge of sleep coupled with their passion for service will undeniably amplify the blog’s capability to provide more information for those interested in sleep as a matter of health, science and career. (If that’s you, subscribe here)

American Sleep Apnea Association: Enhancing the lives of those with sleep apnea

Over the coming months and years, I will share with you my perspective and views on current developments related to sleep health, sleep disorders, public health and other things that may be of interest to you.


Darrel Drobnich

As someone that has been involved national research, advocacy and public education programs related to sleep health for 20 years, I have a deep understanding of the sleep community and what is needed to propel sleep medicine into the mainstream of public health and safety.  I am the son and father of people with sleep apnea and have been a strong patient advocate in both my personal and professional life while working at the National Sleep Foundation and now as president of the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA).

The ASAA is in a unique position to advocate for patients and caregivers and empower them to have a greater say in their treatment and in directing future research on new treatments and cures. 

The best thing that the ASAA has ever done was to remove physicians from its board two years ago and become a truly patient-led advocacy organization.  This removes the inherent conflicts that exist in the professional sleep medicine field and allows us to advocate for what’s best for patients without barriers. 

The modern day healthcare system requires patients to be their own best advocates as they navigate diagnosis, treatment options and insurance payments.  The ASAA believes that patients should also be at the table when companies develop new products, professional groups develop new guidelines, and researchers develop research grants and programs.

This is all necessary because in our view, the sleep medicine field has failed us in many ways.  Much more needs to be done to identify patients with sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea, and get them properly treated and on the road to better health.  We have heard for 30 years or more that 80% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are still undiagnosed and untreated.  For those that are diagnosed, only 50% stick with CPAP for the first year or so.  Those numbers have to increase greatly beyond a year or two, but no one really knows because sleep centers don’t follow up with those patients that drop out of the system. 

However, we strongly believe that these people are still in the healthcare system, but identified as patients with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, depression, or stroke.  That’s if they are lucky enough not to die in a fall asleep automobile crash or of a heart attack.  These all have to be recognized as great failures in promoting public health and safety.  It’s up to patients to direct their own destiny through directing advocacy, education and funding our own research programs.

The ASAA has put a wonderful team of people that have been successful in business, startup ventures, medical practices, research programs and advocacy that are working together to expand our national programs and empowering patients.  Simply put, this is not the same old ASAA.  We want to be the true voice of patients and stakeholders.

We don’t see ourselves as a sleep organization, but a public health organization with something to prove.  We will expand our focus to beyond sleep apnea to include insomnia and other sleep health issues as well and work with partners to connect the dots between sleep and other comorbid health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, mental health, pediatric health among other things. 

We want to build an army of patients, caregivers, physicians, researchers, and volunteers that want to advocate for greater recognition of sleep as a healthy behavior, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders and the mitigation of the consequences of sleep loss in the workplace, classroom and on the highway. 

American Sleep Apnea Association Logo The ethos of the new American Sleep Apnea Association is “patient led…and patient supported.”  Come join the fun. Learn more about ASAA at,


Darrel Drobnich

President, American Sleep Apnea Association

Interested in sleep as a matter of health, science or career? Subscribe to the Sleep Journal blog today!



Study shows sleep apnea patients get better looking with CPAP

Credit: Bottom Line's Daily Health News

Credit: Bottom Line’s Daily Health News

Sleep comes with many benefits – increased energy, a boosted immune system, decreased irritability, and now, more attractiveness for Sleep Apnea patients, according to a study done by Ronald D. Chervin, MD. Chervin is a professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Center, University of Michigan.


Recent study shows specialized care improves sleep apnea care

Stroke and Sleep Apnea PhotoDoes specialized care make a difference for sleep apnea patients?

YES, says a recent study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.


Results showed that patients who received care from board certified sleep medicine physicians and accredited centers are two-times more likely to be more adherent to Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy than those who received care from non-accredited physicians and non-accredited centers.

The study involved 502 patients with OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) at four sleep centers. Participants received an objective diagnostic evaluation using overnight polysomnography and completed validated questionnaires.  Objective PAP therapy adherence was measured 3 months after therapy initiation.


According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. M. Safwan Badr, “Board certified sleep medicine physicians and the team of health care professionals at accredited sleep centers have the specialized training and expertise to provide high quality, patient-centered care for people with a sleep illness.”



Doctors of the study are hoping to push healthcare policy decision to direct care pathways involving accredited facilities and board-certified physicians.

“Whether you’re using an accredited or non-accredited center it is important to be aware of the quality of care you’re receiving,” commented People for Quality Care , Director of Advocacy, Kelly Turner.

For more information on the study – click here

See a mistake? Please comment below! We welcome your input.


Do You Have Sleep Apnea: Video

Sleep Apnea Assoc Video Pic

This video, created by the American Association of Sleep Apnea, follows a man’s personal story as he struggled through the realization that sleep deprivation was causing significant problems in his life.

His wife stopped sleeping in their bed because he snored too loudly; he lost interest in attending social events because he was fatigued; and he realized his lack of focus at work was creating havoc for his career.

When he finally chose to see the doctor and was diagnosed, he was relieved when his symptoms had a name and various treatment solutions.

Watch the video here. Learn more at