Bappi Lahiri dying: ‘Govt should acknowledge sleep apnea as a medical disorder’

Noted singer-composer Bappi Lahiri who died at the age of 69 at a Mumbai hospital on February 15 suffered from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Dr Seemab Shaikh, a Pune- sleep specialist and founder and national president of Indian Association of Surgeons for Sleep Apnea, tells The Indian Express it is time the government declared it a medical disorder and not a lifestyle issue. Here are edited excerpts of an interview with Dr Shaikh:

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a disorder where an obstruction can occur at different levels in the airway, thereby reducing oxygen supply to the body. This is a sleep-related breathing disorder and occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway during sleep. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.

We do not have enough , but an average of 7 to 8 per cent of the population is estimated to have this condition.

why is Obstructive Sleep Apnea not seriously considered?

It is not taken seriously as it is considered normal to snore . Either it is ruled out as tiredness or having had a hard day at work. The generation would often say that snoring is a phenomenon that is bound to occur with increasing age.

Has awareness been generated about this issue?

Over the last decade or so, there has been considerable awareness of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. There are associations like the Indian Association of Surgeons for Sleep Apnea and Indian Sleep Disorder Association which are working towards stepping up awareness at different levels. World Sleep Day is held on March 15 to raise awareness about sleep as a human privilege that is often compromised by modern lifestyle .

What is the way forward?

More work needs to be done in terms of educating society and making people realize it is easily treatable once the obstruction is located. We are doing lots of research, and studies are underground on different procedures that are available. Some procedures are being refined to yield better results. We are also analyzing newer techniques and scrutinizing the modality of treatment.

As part of our efforts, we are engaged in convincing the government to recognize sleep apnea as a medical disorder and not a lifestyle issue.

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