Atul Malhotra, MD runs a large NIH funded laboratory via the Sleep Disorders Research Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, and is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. An internationally recognized expert in sleep apnea, he has dedicated much of his career to advancing research and patient care in the field. His research focuses on the mechanisms leading to the different manifestations of sleep apnea and the application of these findings to individualized patient care. Based on his international reputation he was recently elected Secretary Treasurer of the American Thoracic Society, giving him the appointment as President of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) in 2015. The ATS is the world’s most prestigious respiratory organization focused on advances causes in global lung health.
Dr. Malhotra has published more than 180 original manuscripts, more than 100 chapters and reviews, and a book about sleep apnea, the Sleep Disorders Handbook. He frequently consults for national and international organizations and serves on several prestigious editorial review boards.
A dedicated mentor, his trainees have become leaders throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, India, the Middle East, Japan, and Latin America.
The Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a 793-bed teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, recognized internationally for its excellence in patient care; commitment to educating and training physicians, research scientists, and other healthcare professionals; and outstanding reputation in biomedical research. BWH is a top recipient of research grants from the National Institutes of Health, with an annual research budget of more than $537 million. The hospital’s deep and rich roots in medicine date back to 1832 and include discovery of the human circadian pacemaker and the causes of debilitating and widespread sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
The Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep Medicine, a world leader in sleep research and the care of patients with sleep disorders, is addressing this country’s sleep crisis in a number of ways. Dr. Malhotra is leading the division’s charge to investigate measures to ameliorate and cure sleep disorders within our lifetime, to train future international experts in sleep health, and to deliver the highest quality clinical care to almost 8,000 people who visit BWH for relief from debilitating sleep disorders every year.
Finding a Cure for Sleep Apnea
In the United States alone, as many as 18 million people suffer from sleep apnea, a serious and potentially life-threatening respiratory condition. Sleep apnea is characterized by as many as 100 brief interruptions of breathing during sleep per hour—of which the sleeper is often unaware.
During these episodes, air cannot flow adequately into the person’s lungs, sometimes causing choking sensations and waking the sleeper. Frequent arousals, although necessary for breathing to restart, prevent a person from getting enough deep sleep and often lead to early morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, reduced productivity, and depression.
Sleep apnea costs approximately $50 billion in healthcare expenses, sleep-related accidents, lost work time, and impaired productivity in this country each year. And the problem goes deeper than that—sleep apnea is associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart failure, and diabetes. In fact, in a study of patients with impaired cardiac function at BWH, a full two-thirds were found to have sleep apnea. In another study of obese patients with type 2 diabetes, an astounding 87 percent had previously undetected sleep apnea. Even more alarming, one year after these diabetic patients and their doctors were told they had sleep apnea, fewer than 5 percent were receiving treatment for it.
While researchers have made considerable progress in understanding the varying mechanisms
underlying sleep apnea, there is a critical need to evolve from the current standard of care for sleep
apnea, which is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a cumbersome method applied via a face mask.
Finding a cure for sleep apnea is a top priority, and Dr. Malhotra and his team believe this may be possible within our lifetime.