It is a new year and with it people are making all resolutions to improve their health and daily life. This may be the one aspect of a healthy lifestyle that is overlooked. There is new research every day that shows how sleep affects your health. It is also known that sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, memory loss and increase in pain.
When you are looking to change your sleep habits there are usually two things that we look at. The durations of sleep and our bedtime routine to help shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. Depending on what issues you have the solutions are fairly similar.
Normal sleep length is anywhere from 6-8 hours. It depends on your age and your specific body needs. If you have a teen or child who also needs help with sleep they will need more sleep teens need anywhere between 8-9 hours of sleep and children will need more and regular naps.
Creating a strong sleep routine is the best step to help you fall asleep quickly. There are a few steps to creating a strong sleep routine:
If you are just starting out as a new CPAP user you will find that a little support goes a long way. Family support is important but it is support from other users that will truly allow you to find what will work for you. The problem is that most physician’s offices and DME companies do not tell you where to find support. But if you look online and in your community there are some great support groups.
Local Support Groups
The American Sleep Association is an excellent resource for finding local support groups. They are the association that started the A.W.A.K.E. groups. They have even started on online meeting for truck drivers since they have unique issues such as repeated testing and traveling with their machine. Their website sleepapnea.org also has up to date research, and an online forum to have questions answered. If there is not a support group near you then they will help you start one up.
Online Support Groups
Talkaboutsleep.com was started by a sleep apnea patient who felt she needed more support. The site has a chat room, message board and strong basic information about sleep disorders. The most interesting part of the site is the reviews of equipment and the comparisons of the masks. Once a quarter they will trial two similar masks from different manufacturers. They send samples to members to trial and then review. This gives people the opportunity to hear what actual patients think of new masks when they come out. They also have an excellent store to buy masks and accessories for your machine.
Sleepguide.com is a message board for sleep patients. There are patients and health care professionals who frequent the site and answer each others questions. You will find many opinions from different sources.
DrStevenPark.com is a great resource. He has monthly webinar that answers pre-submitted questions on CPAP and sleep disorders. His site has interviews with other healthcare professionals and medical articles. He also has a book for sale called Sleep Interrupted.
About.com has a page on sleep disorders that is written by Dr. Brandon Peters. He has a weekly newsletter that covers basic topics such as what is sleep apnea and new treatment options. Everything he has written is archived on the website so you are able to look up specific topics or disorders. This site covers many sleep disorders including Restless Leg Syndrome, REM Behavior Disorder ad Sleep Talking to name a few.
Seeking Help is the Key
If you are starting out with CPAP these sites and groups will help you to understand you are not alone. It will also help you to overcome problems that might arise while you get used to the new therapy. The more educated you are about your disorder and the more support you seek the more successful you will be.
You wake up with the nagging pain, difficulty concentrating and wishing you could just go back to bed and pull the covers over your head. If this happens on a regular basis there may be more going on then a hatred of mornings. Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation can have a serous effect on your waking hours.
One of the symptoms of sleep apnea is a morning headache. It is an effect of several things happing during the night. Sleep apnea causes multiple arousals during the night which keeps you from getting a restful sleep as well as going into the deeper slow wave sleep which where your body heals itself. Each time someone with sleep apnea stops breathing it causes an increase in pressure in the chest that can effect the entire body and lead to high blood pressure. Your oxygen levels also fall depriving your body and brain of oxygen. This can definitely lead to that morning headache.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to that foggy feeling when you get up in the morning. This could be due to routinely getting poor sleep. If you change your bedtime frequently your body can become confused and cause disrupted sleep or insomnia. Your pets can be another disturbance. Pets tend to move around during the night and they wake you during the night. But the worst culprit of a restful sleep is light and sleep; this can come from the TV, computer or outside. You can not sleep restfully with light and sound disturbing you. Lack of continuous sleep on a regular basis will bring on difficulty with short term memory, concentration and morning headaches.
One of the best ways to look at what you might be doing that could be contributing to your morning headache is to keep a sleep diary for two weeks. It should have the time you went to bed, the time you woke up, how many times you think you woke during the day, what medications your took before bed, how much caffeine you consumed during the day and any unusual activities or exercising you may have done that day like shoveling snow, going to the gym or staying in bed because you were ill. Since we are looking for reasons you have a morning headache you should document what mornings you woke up with one. If you do not find a correlation between any type of behavior and the morning headache you should bring your sleep diary with you when you go to your doctor to discuss treatment for those morning headaches.
Just remember that a morning headache more then 2 times a week for more then a couple of weeks are not normal and you should not suffer with the problem.
If you wear a CPAP you might notice that this time of year you have more side effects. The cold dry weather and the increased time indoors can cause many side effects such a drying of the mouth and nose, congestion, sinus infections, and illness. It is important that if you are using your CPAP that you are comfortable all year so you have to consider the time of the year and make the changes you need.
The first problem is the dry air that occurs during the winter. This is true even if you have a humidifier in the house. Your humidifier is the best defense for this. Most humidifiers on CPAP machines have settings of 1 to 5 and are usually set to 1 or 2. The reason for the low setting is due to water accumulating in the tubing and mask. This problem can be reduced by making a sleeve for your tube. A nice piece of flannel and some seam glue is all you need. You want to turn it up high enough to make your airway comfortable.
One of the side effects of an overly dried airway is congestion. This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you need to increase the humidifier setting. If you are experiencing congestion you might also want to use a nasal saline spray before going to bed and then again when you wake up to help rehydrate your airway.
The other issue that really causes problems during the winter is colds and flu. Illnesses makes wearing your CPAP challenging. This is where owning two masks can come in handy. It helps to have a full face mask if you usually wear a nasal mask or nasal pillows. It is essential that you keep your mask, tubing and humidifier clean. Warm damp places are a great place for viruses and bacteria to grow. The best way to keep your equipment clean is to wash it with soap and water and then you can disinfect it with one part white vinegar and 3 parts water. Just soak them for 20 minutes then rinse very well so your equipment does not smell like salad dressing then allow your equipment to air dry.
If you try some of these ideas and they do not help you then go back to your doctor, sleep lab or DME company and ask for some help. Everyone wants you to succeed with your CPAP and they will be happy to help.