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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