Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sleep Apnea and the New Year's Resolution

 It is almost the end of 2009 and it is time to make resolutions for 2010. Are you planning on making the same ones that you break every year or are there any new ones that you want to take a shot at? Perhaps you are like me and want to get something done about your sleep apnea problem.

I am one to talk about breaking New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know if I have ever stuck with any plan or resolution that started in January. If I made it February with a diet or exercise plan I was doing pretty well. That’s why I usually haven’t made any resolutions in the past few years. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a resolution or maybe I should start it on February first instead.

Anyway in 2010 I definitely need to do something about my sleep apnea. Last year I concentrated on controlling my meniere’s disease and I think that I was successful. But this year it’s the sleep apnea that I have to do something about. I don’t know what exactly I will do but I have to do something. The thought of going to another sleep study makes my stomach turn. I have been to 6 sleep studies before this and I have used the 2 different types of cpap (cpap and bipap) with no success. But the alternative to the cpap is surgery, as I wrote about in a previous post it is a surgery that doesn’t sound too pleasant.

Well I hope that you had a good year and I hope that 2010 is satisfying and productive for you. I will continue to blog about sleep apnea and my meniere’s in the coming year.

Thanks and happy New Year.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

CPAP and infections

If you have read any of my blog you probably know that I failed two times trying to use the cpap machine. The mask was uncomfortable and the air blowing in my mouth was something that I never got used to. Fortunately there are many who have been able to make the cpap work for them. But one problem that a regular cpap user would have to deal with is keeping the cpap mask and hose clean, and it would have to be clean enough to avoid infections.

The most obvious answer to fighting off germs and diseases on the cpap mask is to clean the mask and hose on a regular basis. But is that enough to kill all germs? It would as long as you clean it a regular basis and clean it thoroughly because there are millions of airborne viruses and bacteria just waiting to land into your cpap mask.

What kind of illnesses can you get with a dirty cpap mask?

Probably the most common illness is the sinus infection along with ear infections and maybe even bronchitis. I never had any of those problems but then again I didn’t use the cpap that long. If you look on the web one common solution is dental devices, (ironically you will find a lot of information on all the possible problems of the cpap mask on sites dedicated to selling dental devices). Unfortunately dental devices don’t work that well with severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Some doctors recommend that you don’t use your cpap when you are sick with a cold or sinus infection. That seems counterproductive because you really seem to need the rest the most when you are sick. But I guess that forced air would dry out your mouth, unless you have a water humidifier.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Staying awake and sleep apnea

Like most folks who have sleep apnea I get tired during the day so I drink ice tea to keep me awake. I imagine that coffee, tea and soft drinks are popular with sleep apnea patients who are also trying to stay awake.

If you have sleep apnea you know how tired you can get during the day. The lack of sleep at night puts you in a state of exhaustion from the moment you wake up till you lay down at night. Of course when you lay down you go straight into the sleep apnea pattern of falling asleep only to wake a few moments later. Unfortunately this pattern goes on all night.

So after the usual rest less night you grab whatever drinks that are loaded with caffeine first thing in the morning. And if you are like me you will drinking your caffeine drink all day probably up till the time you are ready to go to bed. Besides all the adverse effects of sleep apnea you also have to deal with the problems of caffeine. One of the main problems of caffeine is that it raises high blood pressure which increases the chance of heart disease. Now you have to drink a lot of caffeine drinks to fall under that risk but it still a problem considering sleep apnea is also bad for your heart.

Breaking the addiction to caffeine is tough for anyone but for someone with sleep apnea it is even more difficult. It would probably be better (not easier) to fix the sleep apnea first. It is all more evidence that sleep apnea has to be dealt with.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

UARS and sleep apnea

There are many sleep disorders besides sleep apnea, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, bruxism and snoring in general. There is one disorder that seems to resemble sleep apnea and that is the Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome or UARS.

UARS is when there is distraction to breathing when sleeping. I know that sounds exactly like sleep apnea but it isn’t. Sleep apnea is when there is blockage but with UARS the airway is strained but not completely blocked there the airway is still open. What then happens is the body works harder to breathe causing ‘arousals’ which interrupts the sleeping pattern. All this increases daytime sleepiness because of the irregular rest obtained at night.

This isn’t a common sleep disorder and it certainly isn’t as common as sleep apnea. But the fix for it is similar. Dental devices, cpap machines and the avoidance of alcohol before going to bed are instrumental in relieving sleep apnea and they are also helpful with UARS.

The question that comes to my mind is whether this is a precursor to sleep apnea. If the blockage in the throat is narrow but not completely blocked, won’t it eventually close entirely as you get older. I don’t know if that is true, but it seems that this disorder could be an early version of Sleep apnea.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sleep apnea and dizziness

Most people know that Sleep Apnea if left untreated can cause many serious health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, strokes and high blood pressure. But does it cause dizziness?

Besides having to deal with sleep apnea I also suffer from Meniere’s disease, which is a disorder that causes severe vertigo attacks. The reason for meniere’s varies, some say it’s due to a virus and others point to an excessive fluid buildup in the inner ear. The only thing that is certain is there is no cure for it. The best that you can do is control the symptoms (vertigo, nausea) with medication, supplements and diet restrictions.

The conflict between sleep apnea and meniere’s for me is my fluctuating blood pressure. In the past I have had problems with extremely high blood pressure and low blood pressure. When my blood pressure is low I feel very light headed and dizzy. (I should note that the dizziness that I experience is different from the vertigo experienced during meniere’s.) If I ease up on the medication my blood pressure gets higher, I get bad headaches. Now, I can imagine that my sleep apnea which causes high blood pressure really plays havoc with my meniere’s.

I know that one doctor that I spoke to felt that in away there was a connection between the sleep apnea and meniere’s. He also suggested that if the sleep apnea was corrected the meniere’s wouldn’t be as bad. I’m not sure about that but it is interesting that he saw a connection.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation

It has long been known that sleep apnea has been connected with heart disease. The lack of oxygen due to stopping of breathing can be very damaging. One particular heart disorder that has been found in sleep apnea patients is atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmias, a general term that means an irregular heartbeat. What exactly happens is that the two upper chambers of the heart flutter without pumping blood. This in turn makes the blood form a pool in the heart. A blood clot can then form because of this pool. The blood clot can block an artery in the brain thus causing a stroke or heart attack.

A test was done several years ago where it was discovered that over half of the atrial fibrillation patients also suffered from sleep apnea. And it also seems that the majority of those sleep apnea patients had central sleep apnea as opposed to obstructive sleep apnea.

There are procedures to cure atrial fibrillation such as Electrical cardioversion, where a electric shock is used to fix the irregular heart beat due to the AF. Medication can also be used and with sleep apnea patients who also have AF the cpap has been shown to be helpful.

It is important to remember that sleep apnea isn’t the only reason why people get atrial fibrillation. Heart disease is caused by many different things such as poor diet, lack of exercise and hertitary reasons.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

sleep apnea and sleep studies

At the time of your first doctor visit concerning your sleep apnea, the doctor will suggest a sleep study. The name applies that there is sleeping involved unfortunately there wasn’t much for me during my test. Just falling asleep is a challenge when you are at a sleep clinic.

In order to tell if you indeed have sleep apnea, the doctor will send you on an over night sleep study (Polysomnography). The test can be done at a hospital, a clinic or even an office building. The last one that I had was at an office building. The test determines many things like how long you have slept, how often you wake up (arousals) and how long it took to fall asleep. My problem with all the sleep studies that I have had is that it takes me forever to fall asleep.

Uncomfortable sleeping arrangement

To say that the sleep study has an uncomfortable sleeping arrangement is an understatement. There are wires attached everywhere on your body, from your head to your feet. With all those wires it is difficult to move in bed especially if you like to sleep on your side. Another problem that I had was the strangeness of having someone watch me sleep. I just couldn’t get that out of my head that there was somebody in another room watching me on a monitor.

Need less to say none of my tests were great successes. I did finally fall asleep long enough to prove that I had sleep apnea. One thing that I didn’t realize is that your doctor can prescribe something for you the night of the test. If I have another sleep study (and I am sure I will) I will definitely ask for a sleeping pill and I will bring my own pillow too.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sleep apnea and swallowing

When I was a kid I had the worst time swallowing pills. My parents couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t swallow one small pill without me acting like it was choking me. It seems to all make sense now knowing that there is a connection between sleep apnea and swallowing.

Even today I find it very difficult to swallow pills, especially the large capsules; it is for the same reason that my airway gets blocked at night. I have an enlarged tongue that blocks the back of my throat. The first doctor that I saw for my sleep apnea was amazed that I could get any sleep at all with that much blockage in my throat.

But it didn’t seem to bother my sleeping when I was young. I got plenty of rest at least that is what I remember. Of course as I have posted before I use to sleep on my stomach till I had that problem with my back. Since then I mostly sleep on my back and occasionally on my side.

The surgery that would alleviate my sleep apnea and presumably my swallowing problem would be the Maxillomandibular advancement surgery where the jaw is moved forward. At some point I may consider having it done but not right now.

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