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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