This has been a big year in sleep. The research and knowledge the public has about the importance of sleep has been mind boggling. I have been amazed at the new ideas shared and the growth of new ideas in therapy.
The connection to sleep deprivation and sleep apnea as an independent contributor to diseases from aging to cancer to diabetes to heart disease and glaucoma has really brought to light that sleep is essential. Some of the connections have to do with the continual decrease in oxygen caused by sleep apnea. Sleep deprivation has contributed to memory issues, and other issues of brain disease.
The use of therapies for sleep apnea and sleep deprivation have improved and take into account changes in lifestyle. The use of weight loss, cognitive behavioral therapy and oral appliances to treat mild apnea and PAP intolerance has improved and become more widely available. The idea that using more than one therapy to treat a person is something that really has helped to look more holistically at sleep disorders.
Some of the research also found that we are constantly walking around sleep deprived. Our teens and young adults are so plugged in that they are texting in their sleep. We have done a poor job of associating sleep with good grades and productivity to our young adults.
But to me the most exciting thing is the number of sites out there to educate people about sleep. Doctors, technologist and therapists have been working on changing the average American's view of sleep and its role in our health.
If we can continue to make sleep a priority and understand how much healthier we will be if we get a good night sleep we will have a great New Year.
Not everyone who snores actually have sleep apnea. In fact Upper Airway Resistance is an independent diagnosis that can disrupt sleeping but you do not stop breathing throughout the night. The issues are not just that of the person who has the problem but those who live with them.
Upper Airway Resistance, or AURS is when the back of the throat and soft palate is crowded and causes snoring or vibrations that can be very loud and disturbing.
In children the solution can be as easy as removing the tonsils and adenoids allowing for more space and easier breathing. This allows a child to sleep easier and reach slow wave sleep, the time in sleep growth and healing happens, to occur. It also allow for an easier transition into REM sleep. This normal sleep architecture helps children to learn and retain information as well as have less behavioral problem.
In adults the solution is not always as easy. The airway can be restricted due to issues such as deviated septum in the nose, being overweight or just age causing a relaxation of the tongue when we sleep causing crowding. One of the easiest solutions is to sleep on your side or stomach. This allows the tongue to fall forward when you sleep. Another solution is to elevate the head of the bed. Again this will help to support the airway and keep it open.
Some of the more interesting solutions people have come up with that have been shown to work are mouth and tongue exercises. Using a didgeridoo, an Australian woodwind instrument, has been shown to help strengthen the muscles in the throat and help decrease snoring. Singing has also been said to help.
My final suggestion is that an oral appliance created specifically for you might be helpful. Always use a dentist who knows how to create the best device for you. They should know how to create more than one type of device. They should also be a fellow of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. An oral appliance would allow the tongue and the jaw to be slightly repositioned to eliminate the snoring.
I always suggest that it will be helpful to talk to your doctor about your medical options. Whether you use a traditional therapy or one of the non-traditional therapies I would suggest that you take care of this issue not for your health but also for those who you live with or vacation with.
We talk about our weight all the time. We try new food plans, we take up different exercise programs and we say positive affirmations until we are blue in the face. We ask our doctors for help and they tell us to try harder, eat less and exercise even more. When was the last time you were asked how well you sleep? Our quality of sleep affects our weight more than we can ever imagine.
Why You Need to Get 7-8 Hours
We run on less and less sleep so we can get more done and connect to more people. This lack of sleep has a harsh effect on our brain. It will not only effect how we make decisions, deal with emotions and are able to concentrate but it will also affect our appetite. Sleep deprivation causes us to make rash decisions. This can lead to more volatile emotions and negative emotions like stress and anger. This leads to stress eating. It can also lead to eating foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt.
Sleep deprivation also increases the feelings of hunger. People who are sleep deprived will eat more frequently to help keep them awake. Again the foods they choose tend to be high in fat, salt and sugar. This just makes it harder to stay on your choice of food plans.
Sleep Disorders Affect Your Weight
Sleep apnea has been associated with many health problems but the biggest problem where your weight is concerned is the effect it has on your hormones. In particular you Cortisol levels tend to be elevated and stay elevated throughout the night. The stress response every time you stop breathing or have difficulty breathing as obvious by snoring your body responds with the fight or flight reflex and Cortisol is produced and stays elevated High Cortisol levels keep you from being able to lose weight.
Treating sleep apnea and snoring requires you to talk to your doctor about the problems you are having sleeping. You will want to explain all your symptoms not just that you are having difficulty sleeping. People with sleep apnea do not always snore so do not assume that you do not have sleep apnea if you do not snore.
There are many doctors who will say “well, if you lose weight you will not have sleep apnea and snoring” but in order for you to be successful with the weight loss you really need to treat this problem. Your body does not like to be stressed and if you are changing your food and your exercise but you are still stressing your body every night you will not be successful at losing weight. You need to be your best advocate.
Do Not Underestimate the Small Stuff
Weight loss is a challenge under the best circumstances. There are little things you can do to help you to make the weight loss journey a little easier. Sleep is one of the biggest influences that require very little specific work. Making sure you sleep 7-8 hours a day and that the sleep quality are two of the little changes you can do that will help you achieve your goal.
You have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea or OSA and then they hit you with a bunch of words you have never heard before. They start talking about machines and mask and humidity. You are told this is long term therapy. What they do not explain is what the machine does, what types of therapy are you eligible for and what will be the best type of therapy for you.
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