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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