Christian Guilleminault

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Christian Guilleminault (1938-2019) was a physician and researcher in the field of sleep medicine who played a central role in the early discovery of obstructive sleep apnea and has made seminal discoveries in many other areas of sleep medicine.[1]


While working at the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic in 1972, Guilleminault became keenly interested in reports published by Italian sleep researcher Elio Lugaresi who had reported that nocturnal hypertension was present in patients who snored. Guilleminault persuaded cardiologists John Shroeder and Ara Tilkian to spend nights in the hospital's clinical research center monitoring the systemic and pulmonary arterial blood pressure in sleeping patients. The team observed that when patients fell asleep and began snoring, prolonged pauses in their breathing (apneas) were noted that corresponded with dramatic elevations in their resting blood pressure, simulating strenuous exercise as if the patient were lifting weights.[2] Guilleminault then went on to publish several articles illustrating dramatic improvements and reversal of sleep apnea following tracheostomies.[3] Tracheostomy proved curative in these patients, and demonstrated reversal of cardiac arrhythmias and blood pressure abnormalities during sleep; temporarily capping these artificial airways would re-capitulate the changes of sleep apnea, further establishing the causative relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular abnormalities.[4]

Guilleminault then went on to describe obstructive sleep apnea in non-obese patients, being the first to coin the term "obstructive sleep apnea syndrome" (OSAS),[5] a term commonly used nowadays. In addition, he described the presence of OSAS in children, demonstrating its association with learning and attention problems along with cardiovascular derangements.[6] Following this work, he went on to describe the presence of elevated upper airway resistance in children in 1982, emphasizing the symptoms of attention deficit, hyperactivity, and abnormal behavior during wakefulness and sleep, learning disabilities and sleepwalking, sleep terrors and enuresis that accompanied this form of sleep-related breathing disorder;[7] he described the same syndrome in adults and penned the term "upper airway resistance syndrome" (UARS) in adults.[8] Finally, working in collaboration with Dr. William C. Dement, Guilleminault established the Apnea–hypopnea index (AHI), which is still in use today to characterize the presence and severity of sleep apnea.

Guilleminault continued to be a prolific researcher in the field of sleep medicine until his death. He authored over seven hundred and forty (743) articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and won several awards for his research in the field of sleep medicine.[9][10][11][12][13] He was a founding member of the Association of Sleep Disorders Centers in 1975 and was elected as the first editor of the journal Sleep in June 1976, a role in which he continued to serve until 1997.[14]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ William C. Dement, The Promise of Sleep, Random House Inc. 1999, pg. 179
  3. ^ Tilkian, AG; Guilleminault, C; Schroeder, JS; Lehrman, KL; Simmons, FB; Dement, WC. "Sleep-induced apnea syndrome, a surgical procedure to establish patency of the upper airway during sleep". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "Sleep-induced apnea syndrome. Prevalence of cardiac arrhythmias and their reversal after tracheostomy". The American Journal of Medicine. 63 (3): 348–58. Sep 1977. doi:10.1016/0002-9343(77)90294-7. PMID 331948.
  5. ^ Guilleminault, Christian; Tilkian A; Dement WC. (1976). "The sleep apnea syndromes". Annual Review of Medicine. 27: 465–84. doi:10.1146/ PMID 180875.
  6. ^ Guilleminault, Christian; Eldridge, F.; Simmons, F.; Dement, W.C. (1976). "Sleep apnea in eight children". Pediatrics. 58 (1): 23–30. PMID 934781.
  7. ^ Guilleminault, C; Winkle, R; Korobkin, R; Simmons, B (Nov 1982). "Children and nocturnal snoring: evaluation of the effects of sleep related respiratory resistive load and daytime functioning". European Journal of Pediatrics. 139 (3): 165–71. doi:10.1007/bf01377349. PMID 7160405.
  8. ^ Guilleminault, C; Stoohs, R; Clerk, A; Cetel, M; Maistros, P (Sep 1993). "A cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. The upper airway resistance syndrome". Chest. 104 (3): 781–7. doi:10.1378/chest.104.3.781. PMID 8365289.
  9. ^ Attribution of the Christian Guilleminault Award for Research in Sleep Medicine, World Association of Sleep Medicine (2005)
  10. ^ Distinguished Scientist Award, Sleep Research Society (2005)
  11. ^ Honorary professor, Department of Oto-laryngology, Medical Sciences School of the Capital University, Beijing, China (2005)
  12. ^ Life Achievement Award, National Sleep Foundation (2005)
  13. ^ Doctor "Honoris Causa", University of Liege (School of Medicine) (Belgium) (2004)
  14. ^ Dement, [edited by] Meir H. Kryger, Thomas Roth, William C. Principles and practice of sleep medicine (5th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier. ISBN 978-1-4377-0731-1.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)