Read Joe Borelli, MD’s first hand account of his experience with Dr. Guilleminault, in DISCOVER Magazine

Getting Enough Sleep Can Be a Matter of Life and Death

Amidst our national sleep crisis, researchers are urgently trying to understand why we sleep and what goes wrong when we don’t.

By Kenneth Miller  |  Thursday, February 26, 2015

At first, no one noticed that Joe Borelli was losing his mind — no one, that is, but Borelli himself. The trim, dark-haired radiologist was 43 years old. He ran two practices, was an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and played a ferocious game of tennis. Yet he began to have trouble recalling friends’ names, forgot to run important errands and got lost driving in his own neighborhood. He’d doze off over paperwork and awaken with drool dampening his lab coat.

Borelli feared he had a neurodegenerative disease, perhaps early onset Alzheimer’s. But as a physician, he knew that memory loss coupled with fatigue could also indicate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder in which sagging tissue periodically blocks the upper airway during slumber. The sufferer stops breathing for seconds or minutes, until the brain’s alarm centers rouse him enough to tighten throat muscles. Although the cycle may repeat hundreds of times a night, the patient is usually unaware of any disturbance.

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