5 Things You Didn't Know About Sleep: Sleep Congress 2014

Friday, September 11, 2015 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

"You have breathing problems when you sleep," Dr Christian Guilleminault, an authority on sleep medicine, told me with a smile after taking one look at my face. "I'm a hundred percent sure about it."

Dr Guilleminault was a guest speaker during last year’s Sleep Congress entitled, "Sleep Talks: A Congress on Sleep Medicine Across Specialties". In celebration of World Sleep Day, he came all the way from Stanford University to talk about sleep problems in children.

The 2014 Sleep Congress was organized by Dr Keith Aguilera, Head of Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center at St. Luke's Medical Center (SLMC) at Global City. Hand in hand with the Philippine Society of Sleep Medicine, he wanted updates and topics on sleep  medicine to be shared with the public. (Joan Teotico, digital content officer for SLMC also told me that they have the country's biggest sleep facilities with the most complete range of services for sleep-related problems.)

Dr Guilleminault Sleep CongressDr Guilleminault was a key player in the discovery of obstructive sleep apnea. I was starstruck!

I instantly liked his unapologetic honesty. "Do I fit the profile?" I asked, aware that a person's face shape may very well dictate one's breathing habits, especially during sleep.

It was actually one of the five interesting things I learned about sleep during the 2014 Sleep Congress. I didn't expect, however, that I was going to be the perfect candidate for someone who - gasp - snores!

5 Things I Learned During the 2014 Sleep Congress in Manila

Let me share with you the five things I learned during the 2014 Sleep Congress in Manila, held at EDSA ShangriLa Hotel on March 14 to 15. See if it's your first time to learn about them, too.

Sleep Medicine Conference 2014

1. Your face shape plays a big role in the way you breathe. Have you ever heard of the word synchondrosis? If you haven't, read this and find out why it matters when it comes to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

    2. Parents who keep giving their kids soft food may be contributing to their children's future sleep problems. Parents want the best for their kids. Sometimes, they think that their child who is less than a year old shouldn't be chewing tough food. But it is actually this soft food "mulch" culture that is contributing to underdeveloped jaws. In turn, this leads to abnormal breathing, punctuated during sleep.

    3. Snoring doesn't necessarily lead to sleep apnea... and sleep apnea doesn't necessarily manifest with snoring. (Disclaimer: I knew this since medical school, but it merits a special mention here.) Too many people assume that these two always go hand in hand. It's also dangerous for you to assume that just because you don't make a sound when you sleep, then you are breathing properly and you don't have sleep apnea. That is completely untrue!

    4. When your dentist tells you that tooth extraction for orthodontic braces is necessary, he is about to commit a serious mistake. "It's not that you have too many teeth. It's that your upper and lower jaws are underdeveloped," Dr Guilleminault said. When I told him how many of my teeth have been pulled out for my braces, he said, "That is unforgivable!" A better alternative was available – unfortunately, many doctors and orthodontists didn’t know any better.

    5. "Mouth breathing is always abnormal." Dr Guilleminault said this with conviction. If you find mouth breathing much easier than breathing through you nose, it could be because you have anatomic problems that contribute to pathological function.

    Sleep Medicine: Partnership Among Specialists

    Aside from Dr Guilleminault, other speakers of different specializations came to share their expertise on sleep medicine. Sleep problems, after all, sweep across many fields of medical practice.

    Sleep Medicine Conference 2014

    For instance, when you snore, an ENT might be able to help you. If your palatal arch is narrow, as it is in my case (which Dr Guilleminault discussed in explicit detail), chances are, you snore or suffer from some degree of flow limitation without your knowing it.

    An orthodontist will then step in to correct any anatomical problems in the mouth. If you're lucky, your breathing and sleep problems are discovered early on, necessitating a consultation with the pediatrician.

    A surgeon may step in for surgical correction, if necessary. If snoring or sleep apnea occurs concomitantly with obesity, you will need to see an internist, such as an endocrinologist who can help you lose weight.

    Of course, most adults who snore may choose to see a pulmonologist. As you can see, sleep medicine encompasses many specialties. It then follows that medical management of any sleep problem usually involves the partnership of different specialists.

    Sleep Congress: Not a Snooze Fest

    I saw a few familiar faces during the conference. There was the pretty Dr Agnes Remulla, who joined Dr Guilleminault for lunch. Dr Patrick Moral, who was a mentor to us during med school, was there to lecture as well.

    Drs Remulla and GuilleminaultDrs Agnes Remulla and Christian Guilleminault chatting over lunch. Don’t worry, he’s not sleeping – that would be ironic, wouldn’t it?

    Dr Patrick MoralDr Patrick Moral poses gamely for the camera while receiving a certificate after his lecture. “That photo will appear on Stef’s blog,” he said – and he was right.

    Ten minutes into our conversation, my interview with Dr Guilleminault regarding sleep medicine was about to come to an end. I thanked him for indulging me despite his being sleepy. To end our chat, I couldn't help but say, "Now, you're going to have to teach me how to pronounce your surname properly!"

    The French doctor laughed, happy to oblige. I asked him how young he was. He laughed, too, saying, "No comment!" Well, at least he found me amusing!

    This is as close to an autograph as I'll ever get from the great Dr Guilleminault. It also shows how you pronounce his name. Two birds with one stone!

    Related articles:
    6 myths on snoring (including “I don’t snore”)
    Snoring increases cancer death risk

    I'm glad I learned a lot about sleep problems during the sleep medicine conference. Surprise, surprise: It wasn't a snooze fest.

    Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
    Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!