I was extremely saddened to hear that Dr. Christian Guilleminault, one of the major pioneers in the field of sleep medicine, recent passed away at the age of 80. He was the first to coin the term, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. A prolific researcher with countless publications, he was a mentor and friend to numerous sleep medicine and other related healthcare professionals.
Dr. Guilleminault radically changed my perspective on how I look at sleep apnea when I read his landmark article on upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). He showed in sleepy, thin young men and women that they can stop breathing and wake up dozens of time every hour without meeting the formal criteria for apneas. This was shown using esophageal pressure catheters, which detected progressively lower chest pressures with successive breaths, ending with brain wave arousals from deep to light sleep.
UARS patients present differently from classic sleep apnea patients, with severe chronic fatigue (but not drowsiness), headaches, anxiety depression, low blood pressure, cold hands and feet, hypothyroidism, or digestive issues.
He was also one of the first to describe sleep apnea in young children, attributed sleep-walking to sleep apnea, and was instrumental in collaborating with surgeons at Stanford University legitimizing surgical options for sleep apnea. He was influential in shifting sleep doctors’ thinking from looking at sleep apnea mainly due to obesity to craniofacial factors.
I was privileged to have interviewed Dr. Guilleminault about UARS many years ago on my podcast. To hear the recording, please click here.
Thank you Dr. Guillminault for opening my eyes to the importance of good breathing for good sleep.