Sleep better, Live longer...

Frank is a 52 year old man. Everyone loves him. The only thing is Frank will die at an early age due to a preventable disease. Every evening Frank falls asleep on the couch after dinner even though he has slept all night and had an easy day at work. His wife thinks it is cute that he sleeps like a baby making quiet gurgling snore sounds as he naps. Frank's blood pressure has been difficult to control his whole adult life but does not pose a real problem. At times, it is stable and not very high.

Ann Marie is a 47 year old mother of two. She has a cute round face, a petite narrow jaw line that reflects a doll-like appearance. Ann Marie sleeps very poorly and wakes up several times a night. She blames this on her poor eating habits giving her indigestion at night. Sometimes she wakes up with a panicky feeling and heart racing which takes minutes to settle down and loses her ability to relax and fall back to sleep. Ann Marie always says she struggles with her weight and can not seem to lose the 15 extra pounds she carries. Ann Marie is also at risk for death at an early age.

What do both of these people have in common?
Frank and Ann Marie both have undiagnosed sleep apnea. They also have a much higher chance to suffer a heart attack or stroke in the fifth or sixth decade of life.

Sleep apnea is the more severe form of a sleep breathing disorder. It occurs when an airway( the tube we breathe through) is closed off during deeper stages of sleep by the tongue falling back, sealing off this tube, blocking the inhale cycle of breathing. At this stage, there is no breathing and the body struggles to get air, blood oxygen levels drop, blood pressure spikes, and heart rate increases as the brain screams for oxygen. It wakes up the sleeping body sometimes with a startling gasp and racing heart rate. The body transitions from a deep to a light sleep, the tongue moves forward, breathing returns, snoring begins again. The obstruction occurs again and the cycle continues for sometimes 15-40 or more times/hr all night long.

The stress on the sleep apnea patient's heart and brain are devastating. The risk for heart attack or stroke for a sleep apnea sufferers are much greater than those who smoke. If one smokes and has sleep apnea, the risks skyrocket.

The alarming fact is sleep apnea patients have no idea they have it. The latest conservative estimate is that 50 million Americans, men, women and children, have this dangerous condition.

Some of the factors increasing the risk for sleep apnea are:

  • Overweight
  • Small retruded jaw line
  • Large fleshy neck
  • A feeling your mouth is too small for your tongue and you gag easily
  • Frequent night time indigestion
  • Waking up startled, heart racing and/or out of breath
  • Falling asleep in the middle of the day or in public places

What can one do if he thinks he may have a sleep breathing disorder?
First of all, your family is the initial informant. If they complain of your snoring, snorting and gasping during your sleep even if you claim no memory of snoring at all. If your family is telling you this, be sure to talk to your medical doctor. Ask to get tested for sleep apnea.

How do we diagnose sleep apnea?
The only sure way is to have an overnight sleep study done. In sleep medicine, this is technically called a polysomnogram.

If you test positive, the sleep MD will recommend a C-PAP or V-PAP machine which is a breathing machine. This machine blows air past the obstruction in your airway all night long. If you are not too severe in your sleep apnea, the sleep MD may also recommend a dental sleep specialist to fabricate an oral appliance which will keep the airway open. This is where Dr. Spinner can help. This appliance will be adjusted to minimize the obstructions and possibly eliminate them. It can be a great alternative to a C-PAP machine.

Another option is a surgical procedure to trim soft tissue in the back of the throat. This opens the restricted airway to reduce the number of obstructions that occur. Sometimes this is effective, however, it is the most invasive method of treatment.

All in all, Ann Marie has a high chance of losing those undesired pounds once and for all, and Frank could finally enjoy watching a movie from start to finish. They need to realize the importance of focusing on their sleep, not to mention the fact that treatment for sleep disorders can extend their life. So why won't you take a moment, do some research, and eliminate sleep apnea from your life!

Sleep Apnea Facts
Sleep Breathing Disorder (SBD) Definitions
Sleep Breathing Disorder Treatments



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