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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