Sunday, March 29, 2009

The five Stages of Sleep

What occurs when you sleep? Is sleep just one constant pattern all night? No, there are five stages of sleep. The first four stages are considered nonREM and the last stage is REM sleeping.

  • The first stage is between wakefulness and light sleep. It lasts only a few minutes.
  • The heart rate slows and body temperature lowers during the second stage. Brain waves known as sleep spindles begin to occur.
  • The third stage is where light sleep becomes deep sleep. The brain waves become deep and slow at this stage.
  • Stage 4 is a deep sleep that only lasts for 30 minutes. The brain waves are very deep and slow.
  • REM is stage five. In this stage dreams occur. The brain activity is increased and the body’s muscles are relaxed. Breathing becomes shallow and deep. There is rapid eye movement. This is the stage that Sleep Apnea patients never get to.
The body will go through these stages about 4 to 5 times a night.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sleep apnea and the full face mask

After my first sleep study I was told that I slept with my mouth open all night. I already knew that and so did my wife. Apparently the significance of that was that I would need a full face mask with my cpap machine.

The next sleep study was scheduled and this time I would be fitted for a cpap. There was a little mix up at the sleep clinic because when I arrived they didn’t have a full face mask just one that covered over the nose. The mask was put on and the machine started. The technician told me that I had to keep my mouth shut or the air would blow out of my mouth.

How was I supposed to do that? I tried to sleep but the thought of just breathing through my nose was unnatural to me. I keep opening my mouth and the weird sensation of the air leaving my mouth occurred.

The technician was getting irritated with me. He came into the room carrying what looked like a strap. He wrapped the strap under my jaw and over my head. He assured me that this would help me keep my mouth. It kept me mouth closed but it was so uncomfortable that I didn’t sleep a wink.
The technician claimed that I had slept enough to calibrate the cpap. A technician came out to the house and went over the cpap with me. I immediately had problems with air leakage around the mask. I put tape around the mask to block the leakage but it still didn’t help. And of course the noise of the machine bothered me also.

Someday I might give it another try but not anytime soon.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Children with sleep apnea

Adults aren’t the only ones who can have sleep apnea children also may suffer from it. Unlike symptoms found in adults where loud and interrupted snoring occurs, in children it isn’t that easy to detect. Although heavy snoring is also found in kid’s sleep apnea there are other common signs that your child has sleep apnea
  • Attention problems
  • Lack of weight gain
  • Mouth breathing
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Enlarged tonsils

Adults who have Obstructive Sleep Apnea tend to be overweight but that isn’t necessarily the case with children who have it. Although children who do have a weight problem may exacerbate the condition.

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common reason that children have sleep apnea. Tonsillectomy is a common surgery for hundreds of thousands of children every year.

Children can also be fitted for the cpap machine. A cpap machine delivers air through a hose that is connected to a mask worn over the face. The constant air keeps the air passage open. This usually isn’t recommended for children because they have a difficult time adjusting to the cumbersome mask.

As with adults children who are thought to have sleep apnea should seek out a doctor right away.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sleep apnea and diabetes

There is a direct correlation between sleep apnea and diabetes. Twelve million Americans have sleep apnea and 23 million have diabetes. Studies have shown that forty percent of sleep apnea sufferers have diabetes.

At one time the excess weight that usually accompanies sleep apnea was seen as the connecting factor to diabetes. But now the connection seems to be the reaction the body has to the sudden jolt of waking up caused by sleep apnea. High levels hormone cortisol is produced which causes insulin and glucose intolerance. This may lead to the development of diabetes. The use of cpap reduces the insulin resistance.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What can you do about snoring?

You don’t have to have sleep apnea to snore. If you don’t have sleep apnea then you might be able to control your snoring.

With sleep apnea the cause of snoring is the blockage of the throat by soft tissue in the palate or it might be an enlarged tongue or even tonsils. You can correct these issues by using a cpap or bipap. If it’s really bad then surgery might be what you need.

But if you don’t have sleep apnea, then why are you snoring? It could be a lot of things. Heredity could play a part. You might have inherited a narrow throat or other physical characteristics that contribute to snoring. If this is the case then you might want to check with a doctor to see if you do have sleep apnea.

Also as we age our muscle tone usually decreases and that includes the muscles in your throat. Exercise is great for many reasons; it might also help with this issue.

Your snoring can also increase when you have a cold or the flu. Once again, it causes blockage in the back of the throat.

There are things that you can do to control your snoring. As mentioned before exercising regularly can be beneficial. Smoking and alcohol are two things that definitely contribute to snoring. Both these habits relax the muscles around the throat. And if you sleep on your back simply by turning over might also cut down on the snoring.

So there are things that you can do by yourself to help curtail the snoring. Of course with sleep apnea it can be a little trickier.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Can sleep apnea be fatal?

There are two common complaints about sleep apnea. One is the lack of rest that causes you to feel very tired in the morning. The other complaint is from your partner who has to endure the sound of gasping and grunting for air all night. These are big problems. But there are more serious consequences in leaving sleep apnea unchecked.

Sleep apnea occurs when there is blockage in the back of your throat. The blockage can be from soft tissue palate, tonsils, uvula or an enlarged tongue. The brain goes into action when the body stops receiving oxygen. You gasp for air and abruptly wake up. To a sleep apnea patient this may happen hundreds of times during one evening. You may go back to sleep for a few moments and then wake again gasping for air. This goes on and on.

The most serious problem is that you are depriving oxygen to your body. And that lack of oxygen can cause serious health issues such as heart disease, coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. If left untreated sleep apnea could lead to death.

On top of the physical consequences, someone who overly tired is more prone to be in a traffic accident.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

sleep apnea and sleeping pills

Some nights you wish you could sleep the whole night through without waking up one time. Of course with sleep apnea that doesn’t happen. The obstruction in the back of your throat makes sure that you wake up constantly through out the night.

Many people wonder why folks who have sleep apnea just don’t take sleeping pills. Pop a pill in your mouth and hello sandman! Well, sleeping pills relaxes the throat muscles; you know those same muscles that obstruct your breathing. This makes the apnea much worse not to mention the snoring. And it is not just sleeping pills that have this effect, alcohol right before bedtime will do the same.

If you really want to relax before you go to bed try relaxation tapes or self hypnosis tapes. Also don’t eat very much if anything before you go to bed. It’s hard to feel comfortable when your stomach is churning.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

nasal pillows

Nasal pillows are something that I have never tried and really didn’t know much about. From what I have read they work in conjunction with the cpap machines. Instead of a mask covering your nose and mouth, the tubes go directly into the nostrils. Apparently the part that goes into your nose is cushioned so it isn’t as uncomfortable. Somehow this is supposed to be more natural than the regular cpap mask.

Well, I had to have a full face mask when I used the cpap machine because my mouth is open when I sleep, so this wouldn’t be much help to me. If you don’t have that problem you might want to look into the nasal pillows.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Treatment procedures for sleep apnea

Not all cases of sleep apnea require surgery. There are many treatment procedures for sleep apnea to help control sleep apnea and snoring.
  • cpap machines are often recommended for sleep apnea patients. Air is forced through a hose into a face mask making sure that the patient receives continous oxygen. When you go to a sleep center over night evaluation you might be fitted with a cpap the last half of the evening so a setting on the machine can be determined. As I have stated in a previous post I am no fan of cpap machines. It just didn't work for me. But from what I have read there are many that have found relief with them after an adjustment period.
  • bipap machine is similiar to the cpap but the air moving through the hose to the mask is adjusted for your breathing. Unlike the constant air pressure of a cpap a bipap changes air pressure as you inhale and exhale. Once again I have tried the bipap with no success.
  • Oral appliances is something that I haven't tried. The mouth piece is supposed to keep your mouth open enough to make sure there is no blockage. This is more effective with mild sleep apnea.
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Surgery for Sleep Apnea

This subject will probably take more than one blog entry. So this will just be an introduction to the various types of surgery for Sleep Apnea.

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) I know that's a mouthful, excuse the pun. This surgery removes tissues from the back of your mouth and if you haven't already had your tonsils out they might take them too. It requires a hospital stay and they use a general anesthetic. Its more successful for stopping snoring than Sleep Apnea because there may be more tissue farther down the throat.
  • Maxillomandibular advancement The upper and lower part of your jaw is removed from your face bone. That sounds great doesn't it. It enlarges the space between your tongue and soft palate eliminating some of the obstruction.
  • Tracheostomy This is for severe sleep apnea when all else has failed. A hole is made in your throat in order for a tube to be placed in it. During the day the hole is covered up but at night it's open and you breath through the tube in the hole. Lets hope it doesn't come to that.
Well none of those sound like good alternatives but if it helps you sleep at night it might come to surgery.
As allways talk to your doctor about your options.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cleaning the Cpap Machine

When you are given the okay from a doctor to use a cpap machine someone will come to your house to help setup it up. They will go over how the mask is placed over your face and how to start the machine. If you have a humidifier they will instruct you on the water amount to fill it with. But one of the most important things that they will show you is how to clean it and how often.

You will need a cleanser (not one that’s harsh), water and a damp towel.

  1. Unplug the machine first
  2. Undo the mask and hose from the machine
  3. Wipe down the outside of the machine
  4. Clean the mask with a mild cleanser, gently wiping the inside and outside of the mask. Also check for any tears that may occur in the mask
  5. Inspect the hoses and then run water through them. Of all the parts on a cpap this probably needs to be cleaned the most.
  6. If you have a humidifier, fill the water according the specifications in the user’s manual.
  7. As for how often to clean, once again check the user’s manual.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Impact of Sleep Apnea on your family

My father had sleep apnea. Of course at that time no one ever spoke about it. It wasn't till years later that I heard what that strange snoring that came from my father. It certainly had an impact on my family. My mother had to try to sleep each night listening to that droning and it wasn't like my sister and I couldn't hear it. We lived in a small house and our bedrooms were next to each other's.

But probably the greatest impact was on my father's health. He had his first heart attack at the age of 48. His doctor wrote it off as the combination of hereditary and a bad diet. Never was it mentioned that he was damaging his heart by his disruptive sleeping. It wasn't till years after he died and I started to have problems did I realize that sleep apnea played a big part in him having heart problems.

I am in my fifties now and I have tried all kinds of masks and none of them have worked. I've been to many doctors (ENTs) and they have all made suggestions, mostly about having surgery.
I might go that route but I don't know yet because surgery is invasive and doesn't always work.
But I also have a family now too, so I have to think about the impact of my sleep apnea on them.

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