Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sleep Apnea Revisited



A couple of weeks ago I briefly discussed sleep apnea. It was basically an overview or summary. I feel that I must elaborate a bit. There is so much I could write about it that it could fill textbooks.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss some of the medical issues that result from a lack of oxygenation and the inability to reach deeper levels of sleep. I will still keep the information brief and as simple to understand as possible.

I recommend reading the previous blog on this topic. I previously listed some of the potential sequelae of sleep apnea. This time I will discuss the reasons why medical issues arise.

Many health professionals are unaware of how problematic and widespread sleep apnea is. Most of us believe that snoring is just a social issue. We may have loved ones and friends that do not want to sleep near people that snore since it disrupts our own sleep. There are several organizations such as the Academy of Sleep Disorders Disciplines and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that are actively educating us about this unrecognized issue.

Most of us will find it shocking to know that sleep apnea is much worse for us than smoking. Yes, this is a fact. The average lifespan of a smoker is decreased by roughly eight years. The average lifespan in people suffering from sleep apnea is 14 years.

There are two major reasons why sleep apnea is so detrimental to our health.

The first major reason is from a lack of oxygen. Our bodies need oxygen to survive. When our organs and target tissues are denied oxygen, they simply begin to die.

The second major reason is from the inability to reach and remain at the deeper levels of sleep. These people must be aroused from deeper levels of sleep to a level where they can take in an adequate breath. The problem here is that these people can never reach the deeper levels of sleep that are so vital in the regeneration of numerous hormones, enzymes and other biochemicals. Newborns can require up to sixteen hours of sleep each night and adults between seven and eight hours. Unfortunately, many adults never get a single hour of the deeper levels of sleep.

We can live for three weeks without food. We can live for three days without water. We can only live for  a few minutes without oxygen.

Many hypoxic episodes last for minutes at a time. Many people have numerous episodes each hour. It isn't uncommon to have more than 30 episodes each hour. This has reached epidemic proportions. At least one in six Americans suffer from sleep apnea.

We can now see why diseases and disorders like, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, atherosclerosis, strokes, obesity, ADHD, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, depression, gastroesophageal reflux, erectile dysfunction, bruxism, chronic headaches, dementia, Alzheimer's disease  and even birth disorders of infants in mothers suffering sleep apnea. There are obviously many more that we can add to this list.

The most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States are for the treatment of these medical issues. There is a better drug that could prevent some of these issues. That drug is simply oxygen from the air we breathe. In addition, reaching deeper levels of sleep for an adequate amount of time is equally important.

If a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) device is helpful, then continue to use it. If you have a CPAP and cannot tolerate using one, then an oral appliance may prove useful. You must have a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea and you must also have a sleep study to determine if the CPAP or oral appliance is effective.

If your airway isn't opened properly, it is possible that an oral appliance may cause more harm by decreasing airflow. This is why a follow-up sleep test is imperative.

For more information, review the medical and dental literature from credible sources. If you have untreated sleep apnea or suspect it, contact your physician or dentist that is well versed in sleep medicine.


Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit www.advanced-smiles.com

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