If you snore, sleep apnea may indeed be your problem.
'Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.' ~ Anthony Burgess
If we baby boomers only so much as say we snore when we sleep, all of a sudden sleep studies are ordered to rule out this condition. Indeed, snoring is one of the possible symptoms. But lets take a closer look at this somewhat subjective condition.
In my opinion, sleep apnea is yet another diagnosis du jour, and I have witnessed the exponential growth of the industry for testing for it and for renting out the CPAP machines over the last several years. It is a HUGE moneymaker. Our system never fails to reward the health care system that finds a way for ordering more tests to make their hospitals and clinics more solvent. It also rewards the company that can sell the products/services to treat the condition.
It is the frequency in which sleep
studies are ordered and the frequency in which sleep apnea is treated
with CPAP machines (continuous positive airway pressure) before other
lifestyle changes, and more natural (read less expensive) remedies are
tried that raises red flags in my face of yet another instance of
Clearly the research shows that sleep apnea is real. I believe that the condition can easily be documented, just like vitamin D deficiency, with special tests that show variations from the 'normal' that are often poorly understood. Observational and epidemiological studies only associate sleep apnea with other serious conditions. More large scale, randomized trials are needed to understand whether or not this condition poses a real threat to most people.
Mild forms of sleep apnea that begin with snoring may be treated successfully with other natural or much less expensive alternatives to the CPAP machine. See below for more.
The most severe form, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, can cause real havoc in the body. The periodic cessation of breathing while a person sleeps results in lowered oxygenation of your body for its metabolic needs. Over time, the belief is that this oxygen deprivation will lead to permanent impairment from the oxidative stress placed on your system, resulting in inflammation and perhaps even death from heart failure or high blood pressure. In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, CPAP may be the only alternative.
As always, if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, or if you snore, educate yourself to the best of your ability, and listen to your own intuition, your own body wisdom to aid you in your decisions.
If you are trying a treatment, see if your symptoms improve. If they don’t, stop the treatment and try something else. Only you can be the best judge.
Sleep apnea goes hand-in-hand with obesity and primary hypertension. At least 50% of folks who have these conditions also have sleep apnea. It is also linked to smokers, diabetics, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) heart failure and those who have had strokes. If you are male, non-Caucasian, pregnant or over 40 you are also at higher risk.
As I alluded to above, snoring is the single most common symptom of this type of apnea. Snoring is caused by the relaxation of the tongue and the back of the throat, that constricts the airway. The snore is the result of the air trying to push through this obstructed airway. This is why snoring almost always occurs while you are lying on your back. It is much easier for the tongue to block the back of the throat when you are in this position.
A persons airway becomes constricted for various reasons, causing the blockage of the nose, throat, and windpipe. If you are obese, the extra fatty tissue around the neck and throat aids the constriction and blockage.
Added girth around the abdomen and chest contributes to the problem by making it more difficult to expand your lungs effectively. The spread of middle age adds to the perfect storm.
If you have swollen nasal passages or glands in the throat, the condition is also worsened. So, children can have sleep apnea as well.
A partner can witness the periods of cessation of breathing that can occur many times in a period of an hour. When the brain registers the lowered oxygen after a period of time, it triggers the person to wake-up, often accompanied by a snort or choking sound.
Therefore, the person affected is often sleep deprived, and will feel excessively tired, fall asleep easily during the day, and may show poor judgment and poor mental skills.
The most common treatment is to wear an oxygen-type mask over your nose and/or mouth, attached by tubing and powered by a machine that provides continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP for short. The applied pressure to the throat opens the airway and allows for breathing without the periodic apnea.
The person using the CPAP will be forever chained to a little CPAP machine that makes a whirring sound all night. Traveling light will now be a thing of the past, as this machine must go wherever the person with sleep apnea goes.
Most of the clients I see in the home setting have a very difficult time getting used to their CPAP machines and eventually refuse to use them. Often the individual starts out the night with it on, and eventually it falls off or the person takes it off. The CPAP machine may also dry out the mucus membranes of your nose and mouth, which may be uncomfortable. I have heard of some people, however, that actually love it, so one size never fits all.
There are also surgical treatments such as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty and somnoplasty. Very fancy names for removing the offending parts of the throat and reconstructing the jaw and tongue to open the airway. Gives me shudders and I hope this would only be your absolute last resort.
Our life’s breath is vital for our survival. Allowing our health to degrade to the level that most often accompanies sleep apnea is an outright ignoring of the importance of this life force.
If you are heading toward obesity, are middle aged, snore and have a preference for sleeping on you back, you may want to re-think your health strategies:
One day I was discussing my brother’s health status with him. He told me a very interesting story. Since he is middle aged, somewhat overweight, and snores when he sleeps, his doctor recommended that he go for a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea. His wife was interested in the treatment too, for he was keeping her awake at night with his snoring.
Instead of jumping on the possibility of a new diagnosis, since he was aware of the ramification of being tied to a CPAP machine, he decided to do his own research on the subject. He did what an intelligent, self-motivated individual would do to take charge of his own health.
What he learned was astounding. For a mere 59 USD, he could buy a device that he could place in his mouth to prevent snoring. He told me he was at first reluctant to "throw away" 59 dollars, but thought it was better to try it than to just succumb to current traditional medical thinking. Bravo for him!
As it turned out, the device works. After using his anti-snoring mouthpiece his snoring is much improved and his wife is getting a good night’s sleep. The device he places in his mouth juts his lower jaw out, and takes some getting used to, but he is thrilled that he is now in control of his own health, regarding the sleep apnea issue.
The physiology behind why the device works is this: Just like when medical professionals perform CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation), they have to open the airway for effective rescue breathing. We are taught a head tilt, or jaw thrust method to open the airway. This anti-snoring mouthpiece opens the airway by pushing your jaw forward, thereby opening the airway by disallowing the tongue to fall back to block your throat!
What a simple solution to a
problem that the medical community takes hundreds of dollars to diagnose
and thousands of dollars to treat! It must work, because dentists and orthodontists are now making custom anti-snoring mouthpieces, if you desire to spend a lot more money on your anti-snoring device or ensure a proper fit.
This device, most likely will not work for everyone. I am not suggesting that you remove yourself from you CPAP if it is successful for you. However, if you have mild snoring and/or mild sleep apnea and if you are middle aged and overweight, you may want to give it a try.
If you are a restless sleeper who snores and has sleep apnea, you may wish to say the following affirmations in your meditations and prayers before you go to bed at night:
May you sleep peacefully and soundly and may the noise you make be ever quiet and non-labored.