Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sleep Apnea and the New Year's Resolution

 It is almost the end of 2009 and it is time to make resolutions for 2010. Are you planning on making the same ones that you break every year or are there any new ones that you want to take a shot at? Perhaps you are like me and want to get something done about your sleep apnea problem.

I am one to talk about breaking New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know if I have ever stuck with any plan or resolution that started in January. If I made it February with a diet or exercise plan I was doing pretty well. That’s why I usually haven’t made any resolutions in the past few years. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a resolution or maybe I should start it on February first instead.

Anyway in 2010 I definitely need to do something about my sleep apnea. Last year I concentrated on controlling my meniere’s disease and I think that I was successful. But this year it’s the sleep apnea that I have to do something about. I don’t know what exactly I will do but I have to do something. The thought of going to another sleep study makes my stomach turn. I have been to 6 sleep studies before this and I have used the 2 different types of cpap (cpap and bipap) with no success. But the alternative to the cpap is surgery, as I wrote about in a previous post it is a surgery that doesn’t sound too pleasant.

Well I hope that you had a good year and I hope that 2010 is satisfying and productive for you. I will continue to blog about sleep apnea and my meniere’s in the coming year.

Thanks and happy New Year.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

CPAP and infections

If you have read any of my blog you probably know that I failed two times trying to use the cpap machine. The mask was uncomfortable and the air blowing in my mouth was something that I never got used to. Fortunately there are many who have been able to make the cpap work for them. But one problem that a regular cpap user would have to deal with is keeping the cpap mask and hose clean, and it would have to be clean enough to avoid infections.

The most obvious answer to fighting off germs and diseases on the cpap mask is to clean the mask and hose on a regular basis. But is that enough to kill all germs? It would as long as you clean it a regular basis and clean it thoroughly because there are millions of airborne viruses and bacteria just waiting to land into your cpap mask.

What kind of illnesses can you get with a dirty cpap mask?

Probably the most common illness is the sinus infection along with ear infections and maybe even bronchitis. I never had any of those problems but then again I didn’t use the cpap that long. If you look on the web one common solution is dental devices, (ironically you will find a lot of information on all the possible problems of the cpap mask on sites dedicated to selling dental devices). Unfortunately dental devices don’t work that well with severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Some doctors recommend that you don’t use your cpap when you are sick with a cold or sinus infection. That seems counterproductive because you really seem to need the rest the most when you are sick. But I guess that forced air would dry out your mouth, unless you have a water humidifier.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Staying awake and sleep apnea

Like most folks who have sleep apnea I get tired during the day so I drink ice tea to keep me awake. I imagine that coffee, tea and soft drinks are popular with sleep apnea patients who are also trying to stay awake.

If you have sleep apnea you know how tired you can get during the day. The lack of sleep at night puts you in a state of exhaustion from the moment you wake up till you lay down at night. Of course when you lay down you go straight into the sleep apnea pattern of falling asleep only to wake a few moments later. Unfortunately this pattern goes on all night.

So after the usual rest less night you grab whatever drinks that are loaded with caffeine first thing in the morning. And if you are like me you will drinking your caffeine drink all day probably up till the time you are ready to go to bed. Besides all the adverse effects of sleep apnea you also have to deal with the problems of caffeine. One of the main problems of caffeine is that it raises high blood pressure which increases the chance of heart disease. Now you have to drink a lot of caffeine drinks to fall under that risk but it still a problem considering sleep apnea is also bad for your heart.

Breaking the addiction to caffeine is tough for anyone but for someone with sleep apnea it is even more difficult. It would probably be better (not easier) to fix the sleep apnea first. It is all more evidence that sleep apnea has to be dealt with.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

UARS and sleep apnea

There are many sleep disorders besides sleep apnea, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, bruxism and snoring in general. There is one disorder that seems to resemble sleep apnea and that is the Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome or UARS.

UARS is when there is distraction to breathing when sleeping. I know that sounds exactly like sleep apnea but it isn’t. Sleep apnea is when there is blockage but with UARS the airway is strained but not completely blocked there the airway is still open. What then happens is the body works harder to breathe causing ‘arousals’ which interrupts the sleeping pattern. All this increases daytime sleepiness because of the irregular rest obtained at night.

This isn’t a common sleep disorder and it certainly isn’t as common as sleep apnea. But the fix for it is similar. Dental devices, cpap machines and the avoidance of alcohol before going to bed are instrumental in relieving sleep apnea and they are also helpful with UARS.

The question that comes to my mind is whether this is a precursor to sleep apnea. If the blockage in the throat is narrow but not completely blocked, won’t it eventually close entirely as you get older. I don’t know if that is true, but it seems that this disorder could be an early version of Sleep apnea.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sleep apnea and dizziness

Most people know that Sleep Apnea if left untreated can cause many serious health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, strokes and high blood pressure. But does it cause dizziness?

Besides having to deal with sleep apnea I also suffer from Meniere’s disease, which is a disorder that causes severe vertigo attacks. The reason for meniere’s varies, some say it’s due to a virus and others point to an excessive fluid buildup in the inner ear. The only thing that is certain is there is no cure for it. The best that you can do is control the symptoms (vertigo, nausea) with medication, supplements and diet restrictions.

The conflict between sleep apnea and meniere’s for me is my fluctuating blood pressure. In the past I have had problems with extremely high blood pressure and low blood pressure. When my blood pressure is low I feel very light headed and dizzy. (I should note that the dizziness that I experience is different from the vertigo experienced during meniere’s.) If I ease up on the medication my blood pressure gets higher, I get bad headaches. Now, I can imagine that my sleep apnea which causes high blood pressure really plays havoc with my meniere’s.

I know that one doctor that I spoke to felt that in away there was a connection between the sleep apnea and meniere’s. He also suggested that if the sleep apnea was corrected the meniere’s wouldn’t be as bad. I’m not sure about that but it is interesting that he saw a connection.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation

It has long been known that sleep apnea has been connected with heart disease. The lack of oxygen due to stopping of breathing can be very damaging. One particular heart disorder that has been found in sleep apnea patients is atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmias, a general term that means an irregular heartbeat. What exactly happens is that the two upper chambers of the heart flutter without pumping blood. This in turn makes the blood form a pool in the heart. A blood clot can then form because of this pool. The blood clot can block an artery in the brain thus causing a stroke or heart attack.

A test was done several years ago where it was discovered that over half of the atrial fibrillation patients also suffered from sleep apnea. And it also seems that the majority of those sleep apnea patients had central sleep apnea as opposed to obstructive sleep apnea.

There are procedures to cure atrial fibrillation such as Electrical cardioversion, where a electric shock is used to fix the irregular heart beat due to the AF. Medication can also be used and with sleep apnea patients who also have AF the cpap has been shown to be helpful.

It is important to remember that sleep apnea isn’t the only reason why people get atrial fibrillation. Heart disease is caused by many different things such as poor diet, lack of exercise and hertitary reasons.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

sleep apnea and sleep studies

At the time of your first doctor visit concerning your sleep apnea, the doctor will suggest a sleep study. The name applies that there is sleeping involved unfortunately there wasn’t much for me during my test. Just falling asleep is a challenge when you are at a sleep clinic.

In order to tell if you indeed have sleep apnea, the doctor will send you on an over night sleep study (Polysomnography). The test can be done at a hospital, a clinic or even an office building. The last one that I had was at an office building. The test determines many things like how long you have slept, how often you wake up (arousals) and how long it took to fall asleep. My problem with all the sleep studies that I have had is that it takes me forever to fall asleep.

Uncomfortable sleeping arrangement

To say that the sleep study has an uncomfortable sleeping arrangement is an understatement. There are wires attached everywhere on your body, from your head to your feet. With all those wires it is difficult to move in bed especially if you like to sleep on your side. Another problem that I had was the strangeness of having someone watch me sleep. I just couldn’t get that out of my head that there was somebody in another room watching me on a monitor.

Need less to say none of my tests were great successes. I did finally fall asleep long enough to prove that I had sleep apnea. One thing that I didn’t realize is that your doctor can prescribe something for you the night of the test. If I have another sleep study (and I am sure I will) I will definitely ask for a sleeping pill and I will bring my own pillow too.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sleep apnea and swallowing

When I was a kid I had the worst time swallowing pills. My parents couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t swallow one small pill without me acting like it was choking me. It seems to all make sense now knowing that there is a connection between sleep apnea and swallowing.

Even today I find it very difficult to swallow pills, especially the large capsules; it is for the same reason that my airway gets blocked at night. I have an enlarged tongue that blocks the back of my throat. The first doctor that I saw for my sleep apnea was amazed that I could get any sleep at all with that much blockage in my throat.

But it didn’t seem to bother my sleeping when I was young. I got plenty of rest at least that is what I remember. Of course as I have posted before I use to sleep on my stomach till I had that problem with my back. Since then I mostly sleep on my back and occasionally on my side.

The surgery that would alleviate my sleep apnea and presumably my swallowing problem would be the Maxillomandibular advancement surgery where the jaw is moved forward. At some point I may consider having it done but not right now.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Undiagnosed sleep apnea

It is hard to believe in this age of instant information, where all the health issues seem to be just a few clicks away, that some people haven’t heard of OSA and what is worst they may even have undiagnosed sleep apnea.

As I have written in past posts I have had sleep apnea for years. My wife complained about my snoring and I tried sleeping on my side, sleeping on my stomach, I put those bandage like things on my nose but nothing stopped my snoring.

A friend of mine went to have a sleep study done and he told me that he had sleep apnea, which was something that I had never heard about before. I did a little research on what sleep apnea was and what you could do about it. I made an doctor’s appointment and he set me up for a sleep study. Like so many people I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

At that time I also realized that my father had sleep apnea. He wasn’t diagnosed with it. He also had heart disease. As I wrote in my last post the study of sleep apnea barely had begun when my father had died.

I truly wish that there was more attention given to this terrible and life threatening disorder. But even today there seems to be little information about it. Many people think that sleep apnea only occurs to those who are overweight and that simply isn’t true. Although being overweight is common in sleep apnea patients, you can also be thin and have it too. And of course there is central sleep apnea which has nothing to do the blockage of the airway in the throat. It too can be deadly.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The history of sleep apnea

As I have mentioned in a previous post my father had sleep apnea. I believe that his sleep apnea played a part in his heart problems and subsequent fatal heart attack. That was in 1977. No one at that time even mentioned that he might have had sleep apnea. Of course people have been suffering from this sleep disorder for a long time. Treatments for sleep apnea are relatively new.

The history of sleep apnea

Strangely enough the first mention of sleep apnea came in a round about way from literature. A 20th century physician, William Osler, a fan of Charles Dickens, noticed that one of the characters in the Pickwick Papers had a sleeping disorder that now could be considered Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Osler referred to patients who had similar problems as “Pickwickian. “

In 1965 a group of French Doctors, lead by Dr. Gastault determined that the interruption of sleep happened over and over again every night. In 1978 a Harvard Physician Dr. John Remmer made the connection between the blockage of the airway and the interruption of sleep. Dr Remmer also coined the phrase “obstructive Sleep Apnea.”

One of the earliest methods of relieving sleep apnea was having a Tracheotomy which was an extreme cure for sleep apnea.

The invention of the cpap (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) came about in 1981 by an Australian doctor, Dr. Colin Sullivan and his associates made the first cpap machine. Since then the cpap has improved over the years and has become one of the most effective methods of relief from sleep apnea.

Today, not only is the cpap and its various forms are used to cure sleep apnea, there are also surgeries and dental devices. The type of treatment depends greatly on the severity of your sleep apnea.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The differences between Sleep apnea and narcolepsy

I have known people who have had narcolepsy. They would fall asleep at the drop of the hat. Luckily I don’t have it, but I do have sleep apnea. While some sleep disorders have similarities narcolepsy and sleep apnea don’t. What are the differences between sleep apnea and narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness in which someone has extreme fatigue or falls asleep quickly, according to Wikipedia. Their sleeping goes quickly into REM which is out of the ordinary for usual sleeping and especially unusual for anyone with sleep apnea. The quick sleep which could be brought on sudden range of emotions only lasts for only a few minutes. Sleep apnea patients suffer from fatigue every day but they usually don’t fall asleep instantaneously.

Unlike obstructive sleep apnea the problem with narcolepsy is neurological. Also unlike sleep apnea narcolepsy is not very common. One common feature of the 2 disorders is that heredity might play a role in having sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

Although there isn’t a cure for narcolepsy, there are things to help with the symptoms such as eating lightly during the day and scheduling short naps. Sleep apnea cures are the cpap mask, dental devices and surgery.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do you have a face for sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is caused by the blockage of the airway in the throat. An enlarged tongue, tonsils and loose soft palate tissue are the usual suspects causing sleep apnea. There are also other reasons why this happens and the structure of your face is one of them.

The last ENT that I went to told me that the structure of my face (I have a round face) lends itself to sleep apnea. My father also had the same shape of face, very round and full even though he wasn’t overweight. As I have written before I believe that sleep apnea was a major contribution to his heart disease and subsequent death.

I probably could lose some weight but I don’t think that weight loss alone would eliminate my sleep apnea. My ENT said that it was either to make the cpap mask work or the surgery where the jaw is moved forward and screws are placed in the jaw to relieve my sleep apnea. Weight loss by itself wouldn’t be enough.

Is anyone else in a similar situation?

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sleep Apnea and anxiety

Sleep apnea causes many health related problems from heart disease to diabetes. Sleep apnea can also bring on anxiety, which can be just as bad as any other ailment.

In a previous post I wrote about how sleep apnea had contributed to my depression. Not being able to sleep due to sleep apnea and feeling depressed is an awful combination if you are trying to get some rest. Since your mind doesn’t enjoy the rejuvenating effects of REM, your depression keeps on building. The same can be said about anxiety, without a deep sleep your brain never gets a break from anxiety.

And it isn’t just the usual anxiety of everyday living such as dealing with relationships, work and money; it is also dealing with the anxiety that comes on because of sleep apnea. Every night you try to go to sleep only to wake up every few minutes. It gets to the point where you don’t want to even try to go to bed, but you do hoping that you will at least get a little rest. Night after night of this and you become a nervous wreck.

There is also anxiety trying to make different treatments work. Most people who have had any luck with the cpap had to go through some trying times before they got used to the mask. And just the thought of some of the sleep apnea surgeries are enough to make anyone anxious.

So if you are feeling anxious about your sleep apnea situation you are not alone. As with any illness or disorder, persistence at finding the right treatment is the best way to get rid of your anxiety and stress.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sleep apnea and cholesterol

Sleep apnea can be a trigger for many ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses. It can also have an adverse effect on your cholesterol level.

First of all there are 2 types of cholesterol, the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol. It used to be that you would be given just one number to tell where your cholesterol level was. Not now, you also have to take in consideration that some cholesterol is good.

LDL is the bad cholesterol. It clogs up the arteries with plague which could eventually lead to complete blockage which could kill you.

HDL is the good cholesterol. It helps send cholesterol and fats back to the liver for recycling.

Sleep apnea can reduce the level of good cholesterol. Apnea affects the lipid metabolism which has a direct effect on the good and bad cholesterol, according to a German study done in 2006. In the same study it was found that the cpap helped raise the HDL cholesterol.

Of course being tired all the time can lead to poor eating habits. I know that I gravitate toward foods that have a lot of sugar in them, I imagine because it gives me a temporary pickup that I need to get through the day. I am also sure that if I exercised more than I would probably have better eating habits but as tired as I am during the day it is hard to get motivated to exercise.

Once again there is another reason to find relief from your sleep apnea.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sleep apnea and positional therapy

I read something interesting on one of the sleep apnea forums the other day. Someone wrote about how much better they slept when sleeping in a recliner. It seems that there may be some connection between sleep apnea and positional therapy.
Positional sleep apnea can sometimes be cured by sleeping on your side. If you find that it relieves your apnea then you probably didn’t have that severe a case of OSA. Another possible consideration for positional sleep apnea is having a
foam pillow made specifically for sleep apnea patients. Once again I don’t know how effective that would be with severe sleep apnea.

It seems when you are sleeping in a recliner you are bend forward from your waist up which supposedly helps keep the airway open. I might give it a try but sleeping in a recliner all night doesn’t sound appealing.

As I have
written before I used to sleep on my stomach until a back injury forced me to sleep on my back. I don’t think that was the only reason that I started to have sleep apnea problems. I also gained weight at the time. Another reason is the shape of my face and the size of my tongue which is very thick. But the way that I position my self in bed, pillows prop my head up (mostly because of acid reflux) doesn’t seem to be a particularly good way to sleep if you have sleep apnea. But unfortunately if I didn’t sleep that way the acid reflux would be gagging me every night.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Will you ever recover your rest from sleep apnea?

As the years go by and you struggle with the lack of rest you get because of the sleep apnea, you have to wonder if you will ever recover the sleep that you lost. I know I do.

On a past post I have written about sleep debt and how your body’s loss of sleep builds up over the years. You have to wonder if that debt can ever really be paid off, especially if you are getting older. I’m 51 and it is something that I consider. I know of all the terrible things that sleep apnea; can do to your body like heart disease, high blood pressure, addiction and other health issues.

The question is can you catch up on the sleep that you have been losing?

Usually when sleep debt is mentioned it is referred to someone not sleeping very well for a few days or weeks. When compared to the loss of someone who has sleep apnea the number of sleeping hours lost isn’t that great. If you have cut back on sleep for a week, a few good nights sleep can usually get you back on track.

Of course if you have sleep apnea and the amount of sleep that you have lost amounts to many months even years how in the world would you ever make that up? I know that people who have successfully used the cpap masks feel a lot better than they did and I suppose some people have found relief with surgery. But is the amount of sleep that they are getting now ever going to eliminate the years of sleep apnea?

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Odd sleeping patterns and sleep apnea

My mother is 88 years old and she always talks about how little sleep she needs. She can go to bed late and wake up early every day. I tell her that I also go to bed late and wake up constantly all night because of the sleep apnea.

Another strange thing about my mother’s sleeping habits is to this day she still doesn’t take naps in the afternoon. No matter how tired she is, she just can’t seem to lie down and rest. Even though she is overweight she doesn’t have sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder that I know of. As a matter of fact she never complains of not having enough rest which is strange considering how little sleep she gets. I can understand her getting up early because she grew up on a farm and folks on farms get up very early. But they also go to bed early.

I didn’t grow up on a farm but I always got up early growing up. Even though I didn’t have sleep apnea as a kid it seems like I was always tired and a good night’s sleep was hard for me to get. If I went to bed too early, I wouldn’t fall asleep and if I went too late I would be dead tired in the morning. So sleep has always been a problem for me.

As far as naps go for me, I could take a nap almost anytime. In fact, the sleep that I get from a nap seems to be some of the best rest that I get, which is strange considering that I still have sleep apnea when I take a nap.

I really have to wonder some times if I got my sleep apnea under control would I be able to get enough rest that I need or are there other sleep disorders that are being hidden by my sleep apnea.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sleep apnea pillow

If you are like me you have tried many things to help with your sleep apnea. Throat exercises, losing weight, cpap masks are among the few things that I have tried, although I haven’t tried to play the didgeridoo (maybe some day). I am now wondering if my sleep apnea would be better if I changed pillows.

Like most people who have sleep apnea and acid reflux I sleep with 2, sometimes 3 pillows stacked behind my head. That seems to help relieve the acid reflux more than the sleep apnea because with my head pushed forward my throat becomes even more blocked. If I don’t have the pillows my head leans back and my throat does seem more open but the acid reflux would really be worse.

Years ago I slept on my stomach, it was bad on my back but I got a lot more rest. Unfortunately my back problems put an end to that. And I have also tried sleeping my side but with Meniere’s disease that sometimes throw off my balance.

I am thinking about changing pillows. Does anyone have any suggestions on a particular type of pillow that might ease the sleep apnea a little bit? Let me know.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sleep Apnea and Dreams

I have read that you dream during the REM stage of sleep. I have also read that sleep apnea patients don’t reach that stage of sleep. But sleep apnea patients still dream.

REM (rapid eye movement) is a stage of sleep that occurs 4 or 5 times a night. Usually it takes up about 20 per cent of your sleeping time. The brain is very active during REM and the body has a type of paralysis that it goes into. There is also a sleep disorder called sleep paralysis. REM is also the time of the most vivid and memorable dreams that you will have.

But I dream all the time and I remember the dreams? As a matter of fact my dreams go on for what seems like a long period of time. I have had the sleep studies and there is no doubt that I have sleep apnea but it seems strange that my dreams are so vivid. The only thing that I can think of is that I wake up (caused by apnea) then I fall asleep quickly and resume the dream.

Another reason that I don’t think that I reach REM is the paralysis that occurs. I know that on one certain occasion I had a vivid dream where I swung my arm over my body and hit the wall next to the bed. My hand was bruised for quite a while after that.

So if you have sleep apnea I would like if you remember your dreams the next morning or is everything just a blur.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

What was your first sign of sleep apnea?

There had to be a point where you knew something was wrong. You were tired in the morning, even on the mornings where you could sleep in you were still tired. Or maybe your short term memory wasn’t as good as it used to be. You never felt rested but you just couldn’t figure what the problem was. What was your first sign of sleep apnea?

Although blockage of the airway is the common thread among sleep apnea patients, how you first become diagnosed varies greatly. It used to be before sleep apnea became known that people with OSA just lived with it or tried things like sleeping pills (which make matters worse). But today sleep apnea is widely known there shouldn’t be any problem being diagnosed.

Unfortunately there are still many people out there that don’t know that they have sleep apnea. They may think that they just have insomnia or some other problem, dismissing the idea that they could have sleep apnea. I could be that they are leery about sleep apnea because of the horror stories about the sleep study or the cpap masks or even the surgeries that don’t always work.

My story is similar to many folks, I had someone tell me my snoring was terrible and it sounded like I was gasping for air. As I written in many posts I have been to many sleep studies and have tried the cpap mask a few times. And I am going to give it another try, (soon I hope!)

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Sleep Apnea and Coughing

If you have read any of my past posts then you know that my father also had sleep apnea. His snoring would be loud one minute and then it would abruptly cut off. My snoring is similar. But one thing that Dad did that I don’t do that much of is cough, especially in the morning.

As I can remember my Father didn’t have asthma, or any other type of illness that would make him cough. He didn’t smoke or drink. He did have heart disease and his blood circulation was weak but I don’t think that had anything to do with his coughing. Of course back then no one ever spoke of sleep apnea, so that wasn’t considered a reason for his coughing.

From what I have read others have experienced coughing and choking along with their sleep apnea. I can certainly understand that when you are trying to gasp for air in the middle of the night!

One possible reason for the coughing is that the throat is sore which makes sense because after a particularly bad night of trying to sleep my throat is very sore. There is also a connection between acid reflux (which I have and it is really bad) and sleep apnea. Waking up around 2 in the morning and tasting vomit in your mouth is extremely unpleasant. Luckily I take meds to help with that problem. Not eating before you go to bed will also help.

As always it is best to check with a doctor about any chronic cough or any kind of difficulty breathing.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Sleep apnea and addiction

Sleep deprivation, whether it is sleep apnea or insomnia, can lead to so many health problems like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure. The lack of oxygen and the lack of good rest are detrimental to healthy living. Now it seems that there is also a connection between sleep apnea and addiction.

One of the most common addictions of people who have a difficult time sleeping is the abuse of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills along with sleep apnea isn’t a good idea because the sleeping pills relaxes the muscles in the back of the throat which is exactly how the airway is blocked thus making breathing even more difficult. Plus sleeping pills can be addictive and some do have side effects for the user. Seek other treatment for sleep disorders rather than sleeping pills.

Alcoholism is a double edged sword when it comes to sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea and you drink, the alcohol will make the apnea worse by relaxing the muscles in the throat. If you are an alcoholic you are at a greater risk of having sleep apnea for the very same reason.

Those with depression, anxiety and other emotional issues frequently seek solace in alcohol and drugs. Often their emotional problems are brought about by sleep deprivation including sleep apnea. In essence sleep disorders indirectly leads to addiction. That is way seeking help with sleep issues is so very important.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sleep Apnea Treatments

There are many sleep apnea treatments and procedures; here are just a few of the main ones.

  • The easy way to help with your sleep apnea is to lose weight. It probably won’t completely end your sleep apnea but it should help, although if you have central sleep apnea this wouldn’t help.
  • The chin strap is simple device that fits around the top of the head and around your chin. The idea behind it is to keep your mouth shut. Some people use it with the cpap machine others just by itself.
  • Dental devices fit in your mouth at night in order to keep the airway open. This is usually only effective with mild sleep apnea.
  • Somnoplasty is a procedure that uses a radio frequency directed at the soft palate and the uvula. This in effect stiffens the soft palate eliminating the snoring. This is an outpatient procedure.
  • Another outpatient surgery is the laser assisted uvula palatoplasty or LAUP. This procedure vaporizes the soft palate and the uvula. Done on an outpatient basis it takes more than one visit to the doctor.
  • One of the most difficult sleep apnea surgeries to recover from is the Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP surgery. This surgery removes the tissue from the back of the throat. It requires a hospital stay and your throat will be very sore for weeks after the surgery.
  • And of course there is the cpap machine, by far the most popular device to help with sleep apnea. It takes time to get use to sleeping with a mask on your face.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

I probably should have written about this a long time ago but better late than never. How do you know if you have sleep apnea symptoms? It seems that more and more people every day are tested for this condition and they find out that they indeed have sleep apnea. Unfortunately there are still many who don’t have any idea that they may have it. They wake up every day tired and restless and just write it off as a bad night's sleep or maybe they think they are just a light sleeper, when in fact there is a much deeper problem.

What are the sleep apnea symptoms?

In my own case, I knew that there was a problem because my wife complained about my snoring and how it kept her up all night. It would get a little better when I slept on my side or on my stomach, but I didn’t find those sleep positions very comfortable. But what really did it for me was a friend at work talked about going to a sleep study and how he was fitted for a cpap machine. He told me that his wife complained about his snoring also and she suggested that he go to a doctor and see if there was anything that could be done. He described the sleep study, which was strange and the cpap, which really seemed strange at the time. I had heard very little about sleep apnea up to that time. Since my friend had some luck with it I decided to see a sleep doctor myself.

My GP suggested a pulmonologist, a lung doctor. Pulmonologists aren’t the only type of doctors who can be seen for sleep disorders. ENTs, neurologists, and primary care physicians can also care for sleep patients.

I described my sleeping patterns and I told him about how I snored. He told me that the type of snoring that I described was a symptom. He asked me how I felt in the morning, was I tired all the time, did I feel like I hadn’t slept? The answer was yes on both accounts.

The next thing that we talked about was weight, my weight. I am probably about 30 pounds overweight and he told me that sleep apnea is common in people who are overweight. That isn’t always the case but it is common to see overweight people with sleep apnea.

He then looked inside my mouth and saw that I had an enlarged tongue and a narrow throat; these are other problems of sleep apnea patients.

At this point the doctor decided that I needed a overnight sleep study for two reasons: one, to make sure I had sleep apnea; two, to see how bad my sleep apnea was.
Of course I had sleep apnea.

To recap my symptoms of sleep apnea are:
  • loud snoring
  • tired and restless in the morning
  • large tongue and narrow throat
  • being overweight

    There are other symptoms that I didn’t have such as headaches in the morning and I’m sure there are others that I have missed.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sleep apnea and depression

You can’t sleep and you know why you can’t sleep, because you have sleep apnea. In the morning you are grumpy, irritable and no fun to be around. It might even be worse than that because there seems to be a connection between sleep apnea and depression.

I have been struggling with sleep apnea for years and I had also been struggling with depression for years. I had never made the connection between the two. My depression is now under control thanks to medication and quite a few counseling sessions. Depression isn’t a clear cut illness that you can point to one reason that you have it. It may be the culmination of many things, a bad childhood, heredity, chemical imbalance and yes, even sleep apnea.

I don’t know why I didn’t consider my sleep apnea as a contributor to my depression. I had always thought that it was due to a chemical imbalance or heredity or something else. The thought that my lack of sleep could make me depressed didn’t cross my mind. The light bulb in my head finally turned on when a doctor mentioned that sleep apnea could be a cause of my depression.

It makes perfect sense because sleep deprivation wears down not only the body but also mind. If your mind and your emotions are hindered by lack of sleep it seems logical that depression wouldn’t be far behind.

I’m not saying that everyone with sleep apnea has depression but there does seem to be a connection there.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sleep apnea and seizures

Apparently there may be some connection between sleep apnea and seizures. Although there isn’t any solid evidence that sleep apnea causes seizures or convulsions, but some seem to think correcting sleep apnea will help with the seizures.

What is a grand mal seizure?

A grand mal seizure is where you lose consciousness and you have violent muscle contractions. This type of seizure is common with epilepsy patients. (Read more about it at but you can have a grand mal seizure and not be a epileptic. A neurologist is the doctor that you would see if you had seizures because it’s a disorder of the brain. Medications are used to keep seizures under control.

Sleep deprivation is considered one of the risk factors of grand mal seizure. So it would make sense that sleep apnea folks would be at risk for seizures. Studies have also found that people with epilepsy also have a higher percentage of sleep apnea than the regular population. The lack of oxygen to the brain can trigger the seizures. In some studies the use of Cpap machine by epileptic patients who have sleep apnea has help lessen their seizures.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Is sleep apnea holding you back?

I have dealt with sleep apnea for the past 10 years. If you have read my blog (and I hope that you have) you will know that I have been to several doctors and I have tried both the cpap and the bipap without much luck. This past year has been rough for me because I am still trying to get my meniere’s disease under control. I have had some success; this year has been a lot better than last year. So that’s good. But in the back of my mind I always think of how much sleep apnea has held me back.

But this feeling isn’t anything new. I knew that I had a problem with my sleeping because my wife had mentioned how strange my snoring was and I also was extremely tired each morning. In 1999, I started on my quest to finding the solution to my sleep apnea problems and that first attempt was definitely a failure. The cpap experience was bad. Looking back I probably could have tried harder but that mask just wasn’t going to work. I then ignored the problem as best I could for another 2 years till I heard about the bipap. I thought that would be the thing that would work for me. Alas, it wasn’t to be, another failure.
When my son was born I felt that I had to keep trying to make the cpap work. My lack of sleep was extremely tough on me especially because you need all the rest you can when you have a baby in the house. So I went on a few more sleep studies and saw a few more doctors and still no progress.

About 5 years ago was when the Meniere’s disease hit me and the sleep apnea took a back seat. Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that has severe vertigo episodes, but unlike vertigo there isn’t a cure.

This all leads me up to right now, like I said earlier my meniere’s is better and I have to start once again to work on my sleep apnea problem. A little while back I wrote in a post that the last doctor I spoke to said that it was either to get the cpap to work or have the surgery. Not the laser surgery, but the kind where the jaw is repositioned. I don’t want to do that because I have read many times over that that kind of surgery has a high failure rate plus there is a wicked recovery time.

So…I need to stop the procrastination and stop letting the sleep apnea hold me back from the things that I should be doing. Not to mention, the risk that I am taking by allowing the sleep apnea to stop my breathing many, many times each night.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sleep Apnea and losing weight

There has been a lot of information on the web lately about how losing weight will help with sleep apnea. A study done at the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia has come to the conclusion that a loss of 10 percent will greatly reduce sleep apnea in patients. Most of headlines that I have read will have you believe that is just folks with sleep apnea. The study was actually done with people who also had type 2 diabetes.

This all sounds encouraging but I can’t see that losing 10 percent of your weight can have that much effect on sleep apnea because not all sleep apnea is caused by being overweight. My father had sleep apnea and he wasn’t overweight. Losing weight wasn’t an option for him and even if it was it wouldn’t have helped his sleep apnea.

The other causes of sleep apnea are:

The size and shape of your head may cause the airway in your mouth to be smaller
When you get older your brain sends signals to the muscles in the mouth to be tense during sleep
Your tongue and tonsils are enlarged (this is the problem in my case)

I am not discouraging anyone from losing weight. I’m sure that it will help with the sleep apnea, but I don’t know think that it will cure it.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer's

We all know that sleep apnea can do many damaging things to our health. It can put us at risk for heart disease and all the serious troubles that come with that. It can also affect our mental state especially concerning our memory. So it is not surprising that there is a connection between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that kills off brain cells and gets worse as time goes by. At this time there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s. However there is quite a bit of research being done to slow down the progression of the disease and even prevent the disease. Loss of memory is one of the first signs in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. For more information on this terrible disease go to the National Site of the Alzheimer’s Association.

There are some that suggest that sleep apnea patients are at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. A compelling argument is made for this case by Dr. Steven Park, an authority on sleep issues.

In a recent study it was found that Alzheimer’s patients were able to find relief from sleep apnea by using the cpap machine. The study was done by Janet Cooke at the University of California at San Diego.

This is just another reason to try and find some relief from sleep apnea.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Sleep apnea and bad weather

This past week the weather here in the Atlanta area has been horrendous. In the part of the metro Atlanta area that I live in had over 20 inches of rain in the past 7 days. Luckily we were spared any flooding damage. But the weather did make my meniere’s disease and my sleep apnea worse.

Sleeping with sleep apnea is always difficult but for some reason it is particularly hard when the weather is bad. I had to do a little research to find out why. It seems that the atmospheric pressure has some effect on OSA patients. Whereas altitude changes have more effects on central apnea patients. My source for this information is Although they found a connection between sleep apnea and weather changes they are not exactly sure why it occurs.

I think a lot of my problems this week were due to the sound of thunder and the amount of stress I had worrying about the house being flooded. But everything seems to be okay now; of course I still have the sleep apnea.

I still intent to go through with another sleep study sometime this fall. My mouth is almost healed from having a wisdom tooth extracted, so I will probably set up an appointment pretty soon.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two common tests to determine your quality of sleep

There are two common tests to determine your quality of sleep. One is the Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS) and the other is the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

The Epworth sleepiness scale was developed by Dr. Murray Johns at the Epworth Hospital in Australia. The scale is basically a group of questions that determine how sleepy you are during the day doing certain activities. Your score is tallied and from that your doctor will have a pretty good assessment of how tired you are. The scale is used a lot with sleep apnea patients.

Dr. Johns Website is

The Pittsburgh Sleep quality Index was developed at University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. It was developed because there seemed to be a connection between sleep disorders and psychiatric patients. It is a test that is composed of 19 questions. Like the ESS the answers will help your doctors to determine how bad your sleep disorder is and they can determine if you need a sleep study.

For more information about the Pittsburgh Sleep quality Index click on the following website

With my sleep apnea I have taken the ESS test before but not the PSQI test. Both are considered reliable.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sleep apnea and alcohol

I have never been a big drinker, even when I was in my twenties, I never drank that much. Right now I don’t drink for two reasons: it doesn’t mix well with my medications for meniere’s disease and alcohol is especially bad for those with sleep apnea.

Why is alcohol so bad for sleep apnea?

Like certain medications, alcohol relaxes muscles in the body. If those muscles happen to be in the back of your mouth and you have sleep apnea, you have trouble. The muscles relax and block the airway. Well the airway is blocked anyway so why not drink? Well, if you eliminated alcohol the airway might not be as blocked or not blocked at all. Stopping drinking it seems to me would be better than trying to get used to a cpap machine or a dental device.

Alcohol is also bad for sleeping for other reasons, such as messing with your normal sleep patterns. It is true that a few drinks before you go to bed make it easier to fall asleep. But it will inhibit your ability to fall back asleep if you wake in the middle of the night. And as with alcoholics, the more you drink the harder it is fall asleep because the alcohol isn’t as effective as a sedative as it is with a causal drinker.

So if you have sleep apnea it probably isn’t a good idea to drink at all, at least not before you go to bed.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What is sleep debt?

This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer especially for someone who has sleep apnea. After days, weeks and years of losing sleep due to sleep apnea your body has been seriously shorted of sleep.

But what are the consequences of this sleep debt?

First of all, an explanation of sleep debt is in order. There are two types of sleep debt:

1. Partial sleep deprivation, which is when someone sleeps too little for days or even weeks.
2. Total sleep deprivation is when there is a total lack of sleep for the same period of time.

So you lose sleep every night just like most of us with sleep apnea do, can you make it up later? That would be quite a few hours of sleep to make up especially if you have had sleep apnea for years. It would seem impossible to catch up if your sleep debt is what amounts to months of sleep deprivation.

If you get your sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, cured the best possible way to make up for sleep debt is to try to sleep a little longer each night and gradually you will regain most if not all of the sleep you lost.

In my case I couldn’t even guess how much sleep debt I have. My sleep apnea has been keeping me up for many years. Hopefully my next round on the cpap machine will be successful and I can start working off that sleep debt.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

What if the cpap machine turns off?

When I first started to use the cpap machine a though came to my mind. What if the cpap machine turns off in the middle of the night due to a power shortage would I continue to breath?
Of course it never happened because I didn’t use the cpap machine when there was a storm, but what if I didn’t know about a storm coming?

You can buy backup batteries for your machines. I didn’t realize it at the time but it makes perfect sense especially if you get to the point where you are used to the machine and rely on it to get a good night’s sleep. If you have a cpap machine it would seem like a good investment.

As far as the cpap machine breaking down in the middle of the night I don’t think that there is much chance of that because they are pretty sophisticated and probably tested many times. But a problem that I did have was the hose getting loose in the middle of the night. I toss and turn quite a bit and I’m sure that is the reason that the hose didn’t stay attached to the machine. I realized it came off immediately because of the roaring sound it made. That was another reason that I didn’t stay with the cpap that long.

But I am going to give it another try and hopefully I can get past some of these obstacles.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sleep apnea and sleep paralysis

Did you ever wake up and couldn’t move? Unfortunately this type of temporary paralysis does occur. Even though it only lasts for a short it can be very frightening. This type of condition is called sleep paralysis.

While in the REM stage of sleep the body is naturally paralyzed so no injury occurs. This is a concern because during the REM stage the brain is very active and without the paralysis the sleeper may try to “act” out their dreams which may include hitting, kicking or jumping out of bed. With sleep paralysis the sleeper wakes before the REM stage is over but the paralysis isn’t.

Why this occurs is generally unknown but there is some suggestion that sleep apnea may have a connection with parasomnia conditions which is what sleep paralysis is.

This condition is also referred to as “Hag phenomena” because at one time sleep paralysis was considered to the work of the supernatural. You couldn’t move because a witch was riding on your chest.

I haven’t ever had this condition but I have heard of people who have and it can be very frightening. Sleep paralysis isn’t harmful other than scaring you to death but you should check it out with a doctor in case it is related to another health or sleep disorder.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Sleep apnea and insurance

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder when left untreated which can lead to harmful health problems and even death. The treatment of sleep apnea like other illnesses is not cheap. Not only are there office visits to pay for there is also sleep studies and possibly breathing machines such as the cpap. That is why it is important that you know what your insurance companies pay for and what they don’t.

I have been lucky, my insurance companies have never given me any hassles about sleep studies (I have had 7 of them) and the 2 cpap machines that I tried out. Frankly, I can’t understand why any insurance company wouldn’t pay for sleep apnea treatment considering how dangerous it can be if not treated.

Of course if you looking for private health insurance, the fact that you have sleep apnea would probably be a strike against you and your premiums would be higher. But if that is your last resort you would have to pay for it or pay more when the consequences of sleep apnea occur.

With the different types of sleep apnea surgeries most insurance companies would cover that and if they don’t you can have your doctor contact them. You need to be treated for this; it is nothing to play around with.

One other resource to look into is Sleep apnea trials that are conducted to test medication and new medical devices. Here is a link to to find out about any sleep apnea trials.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Sleep apnea and peripheral edema

Do your legs swell at night while you are sleeping? Do you also suffer from sleep apnea? You might have peripheral edema and it could be connected to sleep apnea.

Peripheral edema is where fluid gathers in the lower limbs. Some of the causes of it are getting older, congestive heart failure, drinking and hypertension among other things. This can be a very serious condition that needs immediate doctor’s care.

A treatment for this ailment is made by treating the underlying causes. If there is swelling due to infections then antibiotics are uses, whereas if the problem is heart disease then diuretics are used. Diuretics are well known among Meniere’s disease patients as a source of removing fluid from the inner ear.

From what I have read there seems to be a connection between sleep apnea and leg edema. In an article in the Pulmonary Review, Doctor Robert Blankfield suggests that it is common to see patients with leg edema also have sleep apnea.

I haven’t ever experienced leg swelling but my father who also had sleep apnea and heart disease did have swelling in his legs. So if you have peripheral edema might sure to check it out with your doctor. You might also have sleep apnea.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sleep Apnea and Night Sweats

Have you ever gotten up in the morning to find that you are soaking wet with sweat. You have experienced night sweats. There could be many reasons why this is happening and there may be a correlation between sleep apnea and night sweats.

Night sweats or Sleep hyperhidrosis can be caused by many things such as:
  • Migraines
  • Illnesses where you have a fever
  • Epilepsy
  • Head injury
  • Due to waking up frequently sleep apnea is a cause of night sweats
  • Menopause
  • Acid reflux

    Here are few tips to keep you cool at night:
  • Keep the room cool with a fan or air conditioning
  • Don’t eat much before you go to bed
  • Forget about caffeine, booze or cigarettes before going to sleep
  • It goes without saying that if you have a fever take your doctor prescribed medication or an aspirin
  • Don’t exercise too close to bedtime ( actually this is a good sleeping tip as well)

    The only time that I have had night sweats is when I have been sick with a fever. My sleep apnea doesn’t cause me to sweat that much but then again I always make sure that the house is very cool at night. I also put a fan directly in front of me so I don’t get warm.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sleep apnea and back pain

One of the reasons that I have sleep apnea is my history of back pain. I know that it is a little bit of a stretch saying that back pain has caused my sleep apnea but let me explain.

In 1986, I felt a numbing then sharp pain in my lower back. I didn’t go to the doctor right away because I had back problems before and they eventually went away. But this one didn’t, in fact it got worse, a whole lot worse. Not only was my lower back pain hurting I also felt the pain go from my hip down to my ankle. The first thing that I thought of was my family history of poor circulation. My father had poor circulation and so did his brothers. (My father also had sleep apnea)

I went to a specialist and he sent me to get a MRI. The MRI showed that I had a disc that was flattened and that was irritating a nerve in my lower back. The doctor gave me a shot in the back to block the nerve. After one month my back was without pain.

I was back to my normal self more or less. The only thing that changed was how I slept. Before the back problem I slept on my stomach, which is not a good position to sleep in. After the nerve blocking shot the only way that I could sleep was on my back. Of course flat on my back meant that my mouth was wide open and all the loose tissue in my mouth and my large tongue fell back in my mouth blocking my airway.

And that is why I blame my sleep apnea on my previous back problem. It didn’t help that my tongue was enlarged or that my face is extremely full either.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Can a chin strap help with sleep apnea?

When I first read about the use of a chin strap to help with Sleep apnea I was skeptical. I sleep with my mouth open and I can’t believe that just by using a chin strap your sleep apnea would go away.

But for some people I guess it does work.

The idea is quite simple; the sleep apnea patient has a strap around the top of their head and around the chin. This keeps the mouth closed forcing the patient to breathe through their nose. One of the first sleep studies that I went on I used a chin strap with the cpap mask. The reason why I did that was because the sleep lab didn’t have any full face masks and I am a mouth breather. It didn’t work. The feel of the strap around my head was very uncomfortable and I just couldn’t get used to breathing through my nose. I suppose that I could make the adjustment to breathing through my nose but it would certainly take a long time.

But from what I read many people find relief from sleep apnea just using the chin strap without the cpap machine. I can imagine that the folks that get some benefit out of this don’t have severe sleep apnea and this device could also be used for people who just want to cut out their snoring.
The biggest advantage to the chin strap has to be the cost. It would certainly be worth a try if money was an issue or if you didn’t have any kind of insurance. But I would certainly talk to a doctor before trying this out. You always have to be careful when you are dealing with sleep and breathing.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

My latest doctor visit regarding my sleep apnea

On Friday I had an appointment to see a new doctor about my sleep apnea. I felt pretty good about going because he was in the same group as the doctor who treats my meniere’s disease. So I knew where to go and it was a comfortable setting.

Anyway the visit didn’t take long at all, as I expected. I brought with me my sleep study from last year. I don’t think that it helped much since I had only slept for about an hour or so. The new doctor didn’t waste anytime and began by looking into my mouth. He saw how big my tongue was. He also remarked that since my head and face were so big that combined with my enlarged tongue made me a candidate for surgery.

He then described the surgery and it didn’t sound very good. There would be an incision under my chin and somehow my tongue would be pulled forward. After the tongue was pulled forward 3 little screws (they would have to be little, I presume!) would be inserted under my chin holding everything together. To top that off I would have the worst sore throat in my life for about 10 days. My other option would be to give the cpap another try.

That sounds great doesn’t it! I guess I will be going to another sleep study and giving the cpap or bipap or apap another chance. I pretty much know that was what my options were before I went to the doctor’s office.

Right now I have a wisdom tooth that needs to be pulled bad, so after that I will be scheduling another sleep study.

Oh, and asked him if I had a deviated septum. I had one doctor say that I did and one say that I didn’t. He was going to be the tie breaker. He looked up my nose and said that I certainly didn’t have a deviated septum and that having deviated septum surgery wouldn’t help my sleep apnea anyway. This was contrary to what the first doctor that I saw told me.

So the moral of the story is to always get a second opinion!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sleep Apnea and Brain Damage

We have always known that sleep apnea can cause heart disease, but what about sleep apnea and brain damage?

As anyone with sleep apnea will tell you getting out of bed in the morning after a night of waking up constantly is very tiring and emotionally draining. A sleep apnea patient, due to blockage in the airway of the throat, is forced awake when the brain realizes that no oxygen is being received. The sleep apnea sufferer wakes with a snort, and then falls back asleep, repeating this pattern many times each night.

Even though being tired and miserable during the day can be a serious problem with serious consequences the worst of it is the lack of oxygen. Besides being a cause of heart disease and high blood pressure, there is also a connection between sleep apnea and brain damage.

According to a study done by the UCLA school of medicine sleep apnea patients have smaller Mammillary glands than people without sleep disorders. Mammillary glands are located underneath the brain and they are associated with memory. Alcohol abuse can also lead to damage of the Mammillary glands. But it also seems that being born with smaller Mammillary bodies can also lead to sleep apnea.

Without a doubt sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder, if you think that you or your partner may have it seek medical help.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Does propping your head up help with your sleep apnea?

I used to sleep on my stomach before I had my back problems back in the 80’s. I know that I slept better; at least that's how I remembered it. Then I flattened a disc in my lower back and I found that the only way I could sleep was on my back. It was strange at first because my neck was strained in the morning. I guess it was because my neck was used to laying a certain way at night. Of course this wasn't very good for my sleep apnea.

A few years later I was diagnosed with acid reflux. I have written a post on acid reflux earlier. Having this condition really affected the way I slept. I used to have just one pillow under my head but with the acid reflux my head and neck had to be elevated to keep the acid coming up into my throat. Even with the pillows and medication for the acid reflux it is still a problem.

Of course with sleep apnea the best way to sleep with sleep apnea is to tilt your head back and your chin should be pointing upward. This presents a problem because with acid reflux your head is propped up not back so the acid doesn’t come up the esophagus. It is a bit of a dilemma at least for me.

I have also read that certain pillows, like travel pillows that are shaped like a horseshoe, can be helpful with sleep apnea, although I have never tried one.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sleep apnea and bruxism

In a previous post I discussed sleeping with your mouth open. At one time I had a problem with grinding my teeth while I slept. This is called bruxism.

Approximately 8 percent of the population clench or grind their teeth every night. It can be caused by anxiety, stress, smoking or sleep apnea among other things. The consequences of this disorder can be dental problems, headaches, earaches and lack of sleep.

I wouldn’t have thought that folks with sleep apnea wouldn’t have bruxism since most sleep with their mouth open trying to grasp for air. But apparently it is true. According to the National library of Medicine and National Institute of Health bruxism rarely occurs alone and that many of those who have it also have sleep apnea.

The first thing that comes to mind as a cure would be a dental device which would prevent the teeth from clenching and grinding. But many feel that dental devices only help those with mild sleep apnea. Of course if you didn’t have sleep apnea, the dental device would probably do the trick.

So the logical cure would be the cpap machine or one of its variations. I suppose the continuous air would not only keep the airway open but also unclench the teeth.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The cpap mask and a beard

I know the last time that I had a cpap mask on there was a considerable amount of air leakage going on. I know that there are many different types of masks out there and I should be more particular with the one I wear. The last sleep study that I went on the first thing that the sleep tech said to me was that most guys who use cpap masks don’t have beards because the fit isn’t snug enough.

IS that true? I can’t believe that with all the manufacturers out there that they haven’t developed a mask for guys with beards.

Right now I don’t know anyone that uses a cpap so I can’t ask anyone, but if you use a cpap and have a beard I would like to know if you have any problems.

The last cpap mask that I used didn’t fit my face very well. I did have a beard at the time but I didn’t think that it was a factor. I tried to rig it by using tape where I though the air was escaping. That was difficult because the tape was getting entangled with my beard and in the morning it was painful to pull the tape and mask away from my face. I don’t have a thick beard so I can’t imagine why it would be a problem. But if it is I guess I’ll just shave. It would be a small price to pay for a good night’s sleep.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another try using the cpap

Well I have another appointment set up in about 3 weeks to see another doctor about my sleep apnea. I was referred to by the doctor who handles my meniere’s disease. I am a little hesitant to give it another try considering all the trouble that I have had in the past with sleep studies and cpap and bipap.

But I am going to try again. I really have to because of my age and my family’s history with heart disease it doesn’t make sense not to try to do something. I thought about going to a dentist but from what I have read dental devices are mostly for folks who have mild apnea. I don’t have mild apnea, from the past sleep studies I fall in the severe category. I can’t remember how many times I woke up every hour but the number was high.

My meniere’s doctor asked how long ago it was since I had a sleep study. I told him it was last October. He wanted me to get a copy of the result and bring it to my sleep apnea doctor. As I remember the sleep study was a bit of a bust because I had a difficult time falling asleep, of course I had a hard time falling asleep with every sleep study (all seven of them). Hopefully he will get enough information from the report to ascertain what the next treatment will be. I have heard there is one type of mask that I haven’t tried and it is one that I wrote a post about, the APAP machine.

I hope that he doesn’t suggest surgery but if he does I will have to consider it. I need to be able to sleep through the night without waking up all the time. I feel that with more rest my Meniere’s disease problem will also get better. I’m not sure about that but I know it wouldn’t make it worse.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Insomnia and Sleep Apnea

Possibly the most common form of sleep disorder is insomnia, which can range from a few sleepless nights to the more serious problem of being unable to sleep for months even years. Unlike sleep apnea insomnia can be cured without surgery or wearing a cpap mask.

Insomnia can be broken down into 3 categories
1. Transient that lasts no longer than a week
2. Short term is greater than a week and less than 3 weeks
3. Chronic insomnia is anything longer than short term.

It is important to remember that insomnia isn’t just the inability to fall asleep it is also the inability to stay asleep.

There are many risks involved with insomnia, probably the most dangerous one is falling asleep while driving.

There are things that can be done to solve this problem such as cognitive behavior training, which is changing the sleeping behavior of the insomnia patients. This is considered to be a better way to cure insomnia than medication which can lead to dependency. It is always best to discuss this with your doctor.

Unfortunately many people who have sleep apnea may assume that their sleeping problem is insomnia. They will neglect to seek help because they might feel that this situation is only temporary without realizing that they may have sleep apnea with all its dangerous side effects.

As I have said in past posts, it is extremely important to go to a doctor and tell them about your sleep problems. They can send you on a sleep study (if they think that it is appropriate) and then you will know one way or the other if you have sleep apnea.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shift work sleep disorder

I used to work overnight on a job from 11 to 7 in the morning. I found it very difficult to sleep during the day. I put sheets over the curtains to block as much light as possible into the room but that didn’t help. I put ear plugs in to make it as quiet as possible but it didn’t help (especially since I was living in an apartment at the time). Even before the sleep apnea I had always been a light sleeper.

I don’t think at the time that my sleep apnea was as bad as it is now. I weighted about 40 pounds less for one thing and I used to sleep on my stomach for another. By the time evening rolled around I was dead tired and worked through my shift like a zombie. The strange part about it was that when I went home in the morning, even as tired as I was I still had a hard time getting to sleep.

At the time I hadn’t heard about shift work sleep disorder.
Apparently I wasn’t the only person that had a hard time switching between work shifts, going from day shifts to night shifts. Apparently our body’s circadian rhythm doesn’t like it when we go from sleeping at night to sleeping during the day (at least trying to).

And there can be serious consequences to people who have this disorder, like an increase in accidents on the job due to lower concentration and lack of energy.

If you have sleep apnea, the night shift will also exacerbate your sleeping; leaving you even more tired and restless than if you were trying to sleep at night.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do you pull off the cpap mask in the middle of the night?

When I was using the cpap mask years ago I probably made it through about 4 or 5 hours before I would pull off the cpap mask. After I did that it seemed like I slept better. Although looking back I probably didn’t sleep better with the mask off it just seemed more comfortable than having the mask off.

From what I have read I’m not the only person who did that. In sleep apnea forums I have found that it is common for sleep apnea sufferers to wake up in the middle of the night with a dry throat, or dry gums or just irritated from having the mask on.

Of course I used a full face mask which creates a whole series of problems for cpap users. The biggest problem with that is leakage; at least it was a problem when I used the cpap. I’m sure that there have been improvements made to the cpap masks now.

Another problem is panic, as in panicking because you think that your air is being cut off. That happened to me a few times.

I never had a problem with claustrophobia but some folks do and having a mask covering your face would definitely be a problem.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Surgery and sleep apnea

Last summer I had cataract surgery which for most people is a relatively easy and safe procedure. Of course it wasn’t for me. My first problem was the kind of eye problems (glaucoma) that I had. Before the surgery the pupils in my eyes were very small which made the surgery difficult and required a cornea specialist. And at the time my meniere’s disease (a disease that is similar to vertigo where you have spinning attacks) was probably the worse it had ever been. I had many attacks that just came up on me. I worried that I would have an attack during the surgery.

I discussed this with the surgeon before my surgery date. He explained to me that he usually put the patient into what was called ‘twilight” not completely out but in a very sleepy state. When I told him about my meniere’s disease he suggested that I might be better served if I was completely under anesthesia during the surgery.

Then I told him about my sleep apnea and he decided that putting me completely under would definitely not work because of the complications that might occur if I jerked around while he was trying to remove my cataracts.

So we went with plan A, I was put in ‘twilight’ and the surgery went off without a hitch. No meniere’s attack and I didn’t have to worry about my sleep apnea.

All this made me think, what if I had an emergency surgery and the doctor didn’t know that I had sleep apnea. I know they administer oxygen but would that be enough to keep me breathing. And what about the millions of people out there that don’t even know they have sleep apnea. What if they needed surgery?

If you think that you or your partner has sleep apnea, please go to a doctor to get it checked out.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sinus irrigation and sleep apnea

One of the problems that I had with the cpap machine was that my sinuses were always stuffed up, especially in the morning after a night of the air blowing in my mouth and nose. It seemed like I had a cold or allergies everyday, I was always blowing my nose or feeling congested. From what I understand that feeling isn’t uncommon among people who use cpap machines. Of course it may be different now because of the humidifiers built into the machines, however I’m not quite sure.

But there does seem to be one way to counter a stuffed up sinus, sinus irrigation.
I had never heard or read about it till I saw an article about it on the web, (you can find everything on the web).

It seems that this is an ancient procedure for draining the nasal passages. You can either whip up the recipe at home or buy a kit at the health store. Before you try any of this you need to talk to your doctor about sinus irrigation to see if it is okay. I would be leery about pouring anything in my nostrils. But apparently it works for some people. Check out this video about a guy doing it at home without a kit.

You can also find a recipe at the following link

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Heart disease and sleep apnea

Heart disease and sleep apnea unfortunately have a connection. I know this first hand because my father died of a heart attack and he had sleep apnea. As I have written in an earlier post when he started to have heart attacks no one talked about sleep apnea. No one ever mentioned the term, so he didn’t know that he had a sleeping disorder.

What does sleep apnea do to the heart?
Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop many times, even hundreds of times during the night. The sleep apnea sufferer wakes up to catch their breath and then fall back to sleep only to wake again a few minutes later. This happens so many times that they don’t even remember waking up. The body has to wake up because of the fear of suffocation. The effect of the vicious cycle is the loss of oxygen to the body.

This condition may lead to coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. And if you already have heart disease from some other cause sleep apnea will make it much worse.

The scary part about all this is that there are millions of people who can’t sleep and don’t know why. They could have sleep apnea but are reluctant to be tested or they don’t want to bother with the testing and the eventual wearing of the cpap mask.

And there are people who don’t even know about sleep apnea. They may have this and never get treated for it.

Fortunately, there seems to be an effort on the internet and by certain agencies to get the word out about this terrible condition.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mental effects of lack of sleep

Lack of sleep even on a temporary basis can have a negative effect on your life. If you have been sick or stressed out about something you may find yourself lying awake at night unable to sleep. And while you are lying there you can’t stop thinking about how tired you will be in the morning. When morning comes you are indeed tired and probably irritable. You aren’t quite as attentive as you usually are. Your mood takes a nose dive and the only thing that you can think about is getting sleep.

What if you felt this way every day?

That is pretty much how the typical sleep apnea sufferer feels every day. You wake constantly through the night never falling into a deep REM sleep. When you get out of the bed you feel terrible as if you didn’t sleep at all and you really didn’t.

If you have read about sleep apnea you know how the health risks involved. The most frightening is the increased chance of heart disease. Your heart is being damaged by the lack of oxygen which could lead to a heart attack. There are also other health risks such as diabetes and gout.

But what does it to your mental state?

It is difficult to have a positive outlook on life if you are so tired. Your energy level is low, so you can’t do everything that you would like, which makes you more depressed. The lack of oxygen also causes you to forget things and your ability to think and make decisions might also be hampered.

In my own case I have had all the problems described above. One thing that has helped me is writing about sleep apnea and doing research on it. I continue to look for ways reclaim my sleep.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sleeping with your mouth open

Before I went to my first sleep study, as a matter of fact, way before I went to a sleep study, I had a problem with my teeth grinding. I don’t remember for sure but I believe it was a dentist that told me that I was grinding my teeth at night. I believe they call that bruxism. I didn’t think that was the case, but I tried and tried to keep my mouth open while I sleep and it must have worked because I no longer grinded my teeth at night.

What I did instead was sleep with my mouth wide open, breathing through my big mouth. I suppose that isn’t bad if you don’t have sleep apnea. Although I think it is recommended that breathing through your nose is better.

Why? For a number of reasons such as air leaving the nostril takes longer and it gives the lungs a better chance to extract oxygen. The nose filters the air going into the lungs, which is a good thing that doesn’t happen when you are breathing through your mouth. The only problem that I ever had sleeping with my mouth open was that my mouth was very dried out in the morning.

However, the worse consequence of breathing through my mouth at night was trying to use the cpap with a mask that just covered the nose. On my second overnight sleep study, the tech insisted that I tried a mask that didn’t cover my mouth (he didn’t have a full face mask) I couldn’t do it because when I opened my mouth the air would burst out, which is a very strange feeling. The tech even tried a strap around my head to close my mouth. It closed my mouth all right, but there was no way I was going to fall asleep.

When I received my first cpap machine, I did have a full face mask. It was very cumbersome and there was a great deal of air escaping. I eventually gave up on that.

Anyway, if you breathe through your nose, you will definitely have an advantage over a mouth breather when it comes to using a CPAP machine.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Apap and sleep apnea

As I have mentioned before I have tried both the cpap and the bipap with very little success. Recently I was looking at a sleep forum and there was a mention of an APAP machine.

An APAP, Automatic Positive Airway Pressure, titrates the pressure that is given to the sleep apnea patient on a breath to breath basis, this is a big improvement over the cpap that blows air continuously regardless of whether you need it or not.

The bipap provides 2 levels of pressure in the hose, one coming in and the other coming out. When I tried the bipap there didn’t seem to be much difference between it and the cpap.

So the apap makes adjustments on the fly. This would be great because you don’t feel the same level of being tired every night. If you were sick or worked longer hours or you were stressed out, you might be more tired than usual. With a cpap machine the air is going to blow in the hose the same as it does every night (unless you adjust it every night). But with an apap, the machine can tell by your breathing how to set the air pressure.

This sounds like a major improvement.

I don’t know for sure but I can imagine that it is more expensive than the cpap and as far as insurance goes, you always have to check with them.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Snoring symptoms and treatments

Not everyone that snores has sleep apnea. It can be a major problem not only for the person that snores but also for their partner.

But there are remedies for snoring especially for those who don’t have sleep apnea.

Snoring and being overweight seem to go hand in hand. The first remedy to curtailing snoring is a life change, as in losing weight. I know you want to skip this one (me too!) but it would help with your snoring and help your over all health as well.

Another snoring remedy is to sleep on your side. If you sleep on your back your airway may become blocked. Sleeping on your side helps to open the airway.

Drinking right before you go to bed can also cause snoring. Drinking relaxes your muscles, including the muscles in the back of your throat which can block your throat’s airway. So avoiding the booze before sleeping is another snoring solution.

If your nasal passages are blocked this can cause you to snore. You know how difficult it is to sleep when you have a cold.

Age like so many things can also bring on snoring especially in men. As we get older the throat becomes narrower and the muscles weaken in the back of the mouth.

If you think that your snoring is becoming a major problem then you need to check with a doctor. If you have sleep apnea there are other treatments to consider.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Arrhythmia and Sleep Apnea

There has been a sleep study on Arrhythmias and sleep apnea done by Dr. Reena Mehra at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

Arrhythmia is where there is an irregular beating of the heart. They are common and can lead to severe health issues like heart disease.

It seems that those people in the test who had more episodes of shallow or disrupted sleep where more likely to have arrhythmia. I have heard for years that sleep apnea can lead to heart disease and this is just more proof.

The study also looked at the effects of central sleep apnea. The study seemed to indicate that central sleep apnea, which isn’t due to an obstructive airway, leads to more to atrial fibrillations, which may also lead to heart failure.

The test was done with 2911 participants.

I just read about this and once again this proves that sleep apnea isn’t anything to fool around with.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cpap machines and humidifiers

One of the major problems with early models of cpap machines was the dry air that flowed through the hose to the mask. This would dry up the nasal passage, make you sneeze and was a possible cause of infection. If you had a full face mask like I did then it not only dried out the nose but also made your throat dry and irritated when you woke up. The way that the cpap companies solved this problem was to add a humidifier.

The last cpap that I had used what was called a passover humidifier. A container of water was connected to the cpap machine’s hose as the air crossed over the container moisture would be picked up and passed through the main hose. I was instructed to use distilled water in the container because tap water would wear out the machine faster. Since the first cpap that I had used didn’t have the humidifier, I could definitely tell a big difference in the air passing through the hose.

There is also something called heated humidity. Heat produces the moisture as opposed to a container of water that passes moisture with a passover humidifier. This type of humidifier is now considered superior to the passover type.

Something that you may want to remember is that some insurance companies will not pay for heated humidifiers. Like any other procedure or medical device coverage varies from one company to the next. Your doctor’s office could probably tell you which insurance companies cover it and which don’t.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A terrific website about Sleep Apnea

Last week I received a comment from Steve Gardner, executive director of the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Foundation. I googled the website and I was really impressed!

If you are a football fan you know who Reggie White was. If you don’t he was one of the greatest defensive linemen in the history of the game. He played for the Packers, the Eagles and the Panthers. He was instrumental in leading the Packers to their super bowl victory in 1997.

But Reggie White was much more than a football star; he was an ordained minister and much beloved family man and community leader.

He passed away in 2004 from heart complications with sleep apnea possibly having a role in his death.

Mr. White’s wife Sara in conjunction with the Sleep Wellness Institute founded the Reggie White Sleep Disorder Foundation. It is a non-profit organization.

Please check out the web site at