Dealing with sleep apnea

This Week In The HSI Forum

Snoring is one thing. Sleep apnea is quite another.

People with sleep apnea certainly do snore, but during their sleep they actually stop breathing, sometimes as many as a hundred times per night, with each episode lasting a minute or longer. So part of the reason a person with sleep apnea feels fatigued throughout the day is because the body hasn’t gotten enough oxygen while sleeping.

But fatigue is only a superficial problem compared to the sharply increased risk of cardiovascular disease that accompanies sleep apnea.

In an HSI Forum thread titled “Sleep Apnea any body,” a member named Gene wonders if he has sleep apnea. He says, “I go to sleep and am awakened gasping for breath as though I quit breathing in my sleep. Does anyone know what can be done for this condition?”

A member named Dobby has this suggestion: “GeneI sleep with my head elevated (two pillows)works for mealso, try not to sleep on your back.”

Dobby’s advice may be a helpful remedy for snoring, but it probably won’t do much for sleep apnea. In sleep apena the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep, closing off the airway. This can be caused by physiological characteristics such as a small jaw, enlarged tonsils and fatty tissue in the throat, but sleep apnea sometimes occurs in people who have none of those traits.

A member named Steve has this suggestion: “Gene, please ask your doctor for a full polysomnography [a sleep disorder evaluation]. I own a sleep lab and see peoples’ oxygen levels drop significantly when they have apneas and hypopneas. In short your body keeps waking up and working all night and you never get to REM sleep (restful sleep). You may prevent a stroke in the middle of the night. Sleep apnea is also a cause of hypertension, depression and many other things that you simply do not need to live with.

“The remedies range from using a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure machine) much like a reverse vacuum that blows just enough air into your airway to keep it open while you sleep to oral appliances that move your lower jaw forward enough to keep your airway open. Get checked out, most insurance covers this, it may take some getting used to the equipment but believe me it is well worth your life to get this taken care of.”

A member named Harold shares his experience coping with a CPAP machine: “Yes, it takes some getting use to. After a short while you’ll adjust to the use of it. Not saying that from time to time it’ll irritate you but it is the best thing to help you to sleep.”

And a member named Dale agrees, although he says he had no trouble adjusting to the CPAP: “I had the best night of sleep I had had in years the first night. I have had it ten years and still have to use it every night to get deep sleep. Without it I still stop breathing for as long as a minute and a half before I wake up and start breathing again. I highly recommend going to the sleep clinic. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

And Cleo offers these useful tips: “If you are over 65 Medicare will pay for the device called CPAP. It is not easy to get used to it and you really need to stay with it. It helps. One other thing to look into are chiropractic neck adjustments. The chiropractic method that is effective for sleep apnea is called the Palmer Method. It has really helped my husband.”

The “Sleep Apnea any body” thread contains several other insights about sleep apnea, so for anyone who has a pronounced snoring problem, this is a good place to get some basic information.

Other topics on the HSI Forum this week include:

  • Grapefruit juice
  • Query about kidney support
  • Root canal
  • Epileptic seizures
  • Wheelchair Tai Chi
  • Cataracts

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