Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Benefits of the CPAP machine - Sleep Apnea

After a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure machine. The thought of using the apparatus, with all its tubes, masks, knobs, buttons, lights, humidifiers and such, every time you sleep from now till eternity can be pretty daunting. The side effects of the treatment are easy to find and your doctor will surely outline most of them to you.

However it’s worth pointing out the benefits of the CPAP machine. Here’s a list of what you can look forward to and why you have become a “hose head”

Benefits of the CPAP machine

Lower Blood Pressure – OSA causes you to stop breathing momentarily, often hundreds of time during the night. An extreme case will result in massive loss of oxygen to your body. The cardio system relies on a regular supply of oxygen from the lungs to the heart. If the heart has to work harder with less oxygen, then your blood pressure goes up.

Elevated BP is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It is the main reason why sufferes of OSA have such a higher rate of mortality compared with non-sufferers. The CPAP machine will deliver more air to your lungs and lead to a reduced blood pressure. It is the single most important reason for using the machine.

More alert and fewer day time naps – The interrupted sleep associated with sleep apnea obviously leads to less rest during the night. It can often feel like you get barely any shut eye at during a long night while every body else is dreaming peacefully.

Your body needs a certain amount of rest every day - the sleep apnea prevents this and you try to compensate by slowing down brain function and causing naps during the day. If you can get more sleep at night, then the reverse will occur. Brain function will improve and you may be more productive and better at your job.

Reduced or eliminate depression – More rest at night will increase your emotional stability. Life just doesn’t seem as tough when your body can use the night time for what it’s for. Time spent awake during the night can all to be easily lead to anxiety and a viscous circle of depressive thoughts. The chance to fall off quickly and regularly can break this cycle and lead to a much happier life in general.

Many surveys have confirmed that people who use CPAP state that they have a superior quality of life when compared to what they used to put up with prior to their treatment.

Lose your temper less – A well rested person will have better control over their temper. Poor sleep will leave you with elevated levels of adrenalin and a lower stress threshold.

Do you find that you get angry with workmate, your kids or spouse because you haven’t been getting enough sleep? It’s a very common complaint. More sleep will improve your relationships with those who are most important to you. As will waking up without dry, sludgy eyes or a splitting headache. Starting off the day well makes a huge difference to the outcome of the rest of your life.

More energy – Sleep is when your body concentrates on repairing itself. A restless, unproductive night will leave you physically under-prepared for the day. In addition OSA sufferers will have not absorbed oxygen in sufficient quantities to allow the body to process essential nutrients during the night.

The first response of many people on first using the CPAP machine is how much more energy they have. It’s like returning to sea level from high altitude. More oxygen in the body and hence blood stream and organs means more energy the next day. It can be a life changing difference and one that shouldn’t be avoided.

Lessen your risk of car accident – People with untreated or undiagnosed OSA have been shown by scientific studies to be at much higher risk of a car accident. The daytime sleepiness and general loss of alertness brought on by an interrupted poor night’s sleep makes you more dangerous on the road. It is estimated that sleep apnea sufferers are 15 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Passengers, other drivers and pedestrians are at the same higher risk when a sufferer is behind the wheel. CPAP treatment is one of the best methods of protecting the safety of your children is you have sleep apnea, because you are less likely to hurt them in an accident.

Better concentration during the day – The brain uses REM dreams to recharge it batteries, “file away” what happened during the previous day and prepare for the day ahead. It takes two hours of unconsciousness before it is ready to enter this phase. Apnea sufferers, who stop breathing so regularly and wake up so often may never enter this phase.

When sleep is interrupted, the brain may not get a full chance to perform these necessary functions. This is why our brains can be muddled, groggy and our ability to concentrate is poor after a restless night Allow the brain to achieve the state it needs and the symptoms will reverse.

Medical expenses – Beyond the initially appointments at the specialist and cost of the CPAP machine and finding a comfortable nasal of facial mask, the life time cost of medical care for obstructive SA treatment will be less than no treatment at all. Diagnosed sufferers go to the doctor less and will have fewer severe health problems in the long term. Your annual costs will reduce and insurance premiums may drop as your underlying health improves once treatment is well underway. So there is a financial benefit as well as a mental and physical health pluses involved in the CPAP treatment.

Less Snoring – the opened airways that the CPAP machine will force from its use will directly reduce the volume of your snoring. It can be hard to tell how loud your own snoring really is, because we are generally asleep during its worst effects.

Your sleeping partner will benefit though and leave them with a better more relaxing night. There can often be feelings of resentment brought on by the lack of sleep caused by this snoring so chances are your relationship with your significant other will improve as well! If they currently sleep somewhere else they may even return to your bed.

Sleep through the night – Possibly the greatest benefit of the CPAP machine is the relaxing feeling of sleeping through the night. For an OSA sufferer the last solid eight hours of rest that everybody else takes for granted can be a distant memory.

This continual level of unconsciousness doesn’t happen for everyone on the treatment, but most will see an almost immediate level of improvement. Many patients even get sore body parts and pins and needles in their limbs because there bodies have forgotten to naturally move and roll over during the night. The most beneficial dream state – REM doesn’t occur until 2 hours into a rest period so this is the level to aim for initially.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sleeping Disorders - Causes of Sleep Apnea

Ralf Bromade's children had been laughing at his snoring for as long as he could remember. They called him "The Bear". He was a big guy and liked to eat and drink with friends and was generally pretty happy. There was one major problem in his life, he couldn't get a good night's sleep.

Ralf's wife told him his snoring was as bad as ever, and he was choking during the night. The headaches in the morning were starting to affect his job, so Ralf made an appointment with his doctor to get checked out. He was quickly diagnosed, with sleep apnea. (Some people call it sleep apnoea)

There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive (OSA) and central (CSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common and involves a physical obstruction of the upper airways. Your tongue and soft palate block your throat while you're trying to breath.

This obstruction doesn't always cause apnea. This is the most severe result of the blockage. Often though snoring and very shallow breathing, known as hypopnea, will result.

You will be at a higher risk of OSA is you have one of several predispositions
  • A smaller than normal airway size, due to a larger tongue or soft palate, or swollen throat.
  • Weak musles in the upper throat. This may be an unavoidable characteristic, or brought on by excessive alchol intake or a neurological disorder.
  • Obstruction caused by nasal congestion. Many reasons exist for nasal congestion, but if you have a chronic complaint, like an allergic reaction that causes swelling, a side effect of a drug or a long term illness than these can all lead to the obstruction

Central sleep apnea is far less ommon and is due to neurological disorders which reduce the bodies abilities to look after itself

Symptoms to watch out for
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and tiredness.
  • Nocturnal problems such as loud snoring, thrashing in bed, choking while asleep, making weird noises, pain reactions or mini 'seizures'
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Sexual dyfunction

Obstructive sleep apnea can be managed by your doctor but if it's undiagnosed, or left untreated, than there is a signifigantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and motor vehicle accidents. Ralph was shocked when he saw the statistics and realized what his death would mean to his wife and kids.

You will be at a higher risk of having OSA if you're obese, unfit, keep odd sleeping hours, drink alcohol before sleeping, smoke cigarettes, take sleeping pills or have a chronicly blocked nose

Ralph's doctor put him through several steps to help with his problem.
  • He lost weight, nearly 10kg, which made a big difference in many areas of his life
  • He began to excersize and got fit for the first time since school
  • he started going to sleep at the same time each night, didn't watch TV in bed and practiced some relaxation techniques
  • He stopped taking sleeping pills to help him sleep but left him feeling drugged the next day
  • Stopped drinking during the week and has (nearly!) stopped smoking
  • Sleeping on your stomach or side may help with sleep apnea

At the moment these measures appears to be working, but Ralph still wakes up groggy and with a headache. He feels much better and can finally chase after his children. Unfortunatley his wife is still woken up by his snoring.

The next step is a few nights in a sleep clinic and using a Continuous positive airway pressure CPAP machine.

It's currently the most effective way to treat sleep apnea. You wear a mask over your nose, or face and it uses air to hold open your throat. Most patients report a big increase in sleepiness and can think better in the morning.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cures for Hypnic Jerks

One of the most common searches that brings people here to sleep-disorders-help is for those trying to cure their hypnic jerk.

That jolt you feel just before dropping off. That startle when you’re safe in bed that feels like a falling sensation. That electric shock that wakes you from the earliest stage of sleep. Hypnic or hypnagogic jerks are a fact of life for many Americans.

They can be episodes of frighteningly vivid life-like dreams or a simple physical reaction that causes a mild surprise. Around 70% of people experience this phenomenon.

Nobody knows for sure but there are several theories as to the causes of the jolt while sleeping. It happens most often when we are stressed, in an uncomfortable position, over tired or anxious.

The viscous circle is that a hypnic jerk which wakes you up can make you anxious about falling asleep, which leads to another jerk. Anxiety leads to insomnia and the restless night and bad morning which result can all to quickly follow this cycle.

Some tips to help you minimize the effects.
  • Follow good sleep hygiene, develop a routine and follow it every night.
  • Watch what you eat before bedtime
  • A magnesium, calcium or iron deficiency may be to blame. First try to improve your diet, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Or try a supplement, with those minerals and vitamin C.
  • Heavy exercise too close to bedtime can have an effect. Try to limit heavy weights or cardio sessions in the evening. Conversely a gentle walk an hour before bed may help.
  • Smoking or drinking will reduce the quality of your sleep. One drink before bed may help you to fall asleep and avoid the hypnic jerk, however it will reduce the quality of your later sleep. If the jerk is severely dehabilitating then this may be a way to get things under control.
  • Meditation can help relive those negative feedback loops that will make you dread going to bed.
  • Maintain a positive outlook, and get some tips of relaxation or yoga. The techniques taught in even the most basic class may be enough to allow you to get your mind in a state where sleep comes naturally.
  • A relaxation CD played at night may be the answer. It will give your brain something to do instead of worrying and may quickly become an essential part of your sleep routine.
  • If the sleeping disorder is having a negative effect on your life then see a doctor, who may prescribe some medication to help you get that much needed sleep.
Most importantly remember that if you rarely or regularily experience a hypnic jerk you’re completely normal, take a few deep breaths and relax. The more you worry about it, the worse it will get.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sleeping Disorders - Foods that Help Sleep

Sleep is as important to the human body as eating and drinking. For many people though, getting a good nights rest can feel impossible. Insomnia, the inability to go to or to stay asleep for a worthwhile length of time can be severely debilitating. A few changes to your eating habits may promote a better bedtime environment and allow you to drop off more quickly and stay in dream land once you’re there.

What should I eat to help sleep?

The first essential element is timing your meals. The body has a natural cycle during the day, called the circadian rhythm, which dictates which processes are best suited to a particular time. Sleep requires a drop in body temperature along with an associated lessening of the body’s metabolism. One of the largest processes your body undertakes is digestion. If the body is working then it’s temperature will increase. At the most basic level, digestion can negatively effect your bodies preparation for rest.

To avoid this, try not to consume a large meal before bedtime. The largest meal of the day should be at lunchtime, with a smaller, lighter choice in the evening. Consuming a snack before bed may be OK, but anything larger like a full dinner should happen at least two to three hours before bedtime.

Apart from digestive reasons, another obstacle to avoid is heartburm or acid reflux which occurs when our stomach acid, used to digest the food we’re eating, escapes from the digestive system and makes it’s way back up to the esophagus. It can escape after we lie down and gravity stops helping the cardiac sphincter muscle. Leaving a decent period between eating and rest can go some way to alleviate the symptoms. Spicy foods, fruit juice, fried foods, salty snacks, coffee, tea, onions, peppermint, and chocolate can also make things worse.

Having said that, a small snack before bedtime, can be beneficial. Going to bed hungry can cause discomfort and hunger pangs during the night may wake you up. If you do suffer from this try a snack high in carbohydrates like plain popcorn or a piece of toast, enough to take the edge off your hunger but not enough to kick the digestive system into overdrive.

Foods that help sleep

There is a complex chemical pathway in the body from the foods we eat to the effect they have on our behavior and moods. The most relevant pathway for sleep development is still being researched, but there are a number of theories that have been developed.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which is converted by the body to 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan). This then aids the development of serotonin. Serotonin is associated with mood, appetite, sleep and impulse control. The pineal gland produces melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Serotonin is essential for melatonin production.

Enough bio-chemistry for now! All this means is that foods rich in Tryptophan can help with sleep, if they are consumed with other appropriate nutritional elements.
To transform tryptophan into serotonin, vitamin B6 is required. Carbohydrates will assist with transporting the amino acids into the blood stream and into the important parts of the brain. Calcium will assist with the development of melatonin.

A combination of foods rich in tryptophan, 5-HT, calcium, vitamin B6 and carbohydrates is perfect for sleep promotion.

Try to avoid an excess of protein and fats (ie too much red meat!) as these will inhibit the pathway to melatonin production and obstruct the beneficial nutrients we are trying to consume

Some foods rich in tryptophan are chocolate, oats, bananas, durians, mangoes, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, and peanuts. It is found in turkey at a level typical of poultry in general

5-HT rich food includes dried dates, figs, papaya, banana, strawberries, sweet cherries, orange, mango, pineapple, grapefruit and hazelnuts.

Vitamin B6 is found in meats, whole grain products, vegetables, and nuts however canning and freezing will eliminate the benefits of these foods.

A good source of calcium is dairy foods, if you prefer to avoid these other good choices are seaweeds such as kelp, wakame and hijiki; nuts and seeds (like almonds and sesame); blackstrap molasses; beans; oranges; figs; quinoa; amaranth; collard greens; okra; rutabaga; broccoli; dandelion leaves; kale; and fortified products such as orange juice and soy milk.

A good mix of foods from each of these segments (many are found in more than one place) will develop your chemical pathways leading to sleep hormones. If your diet currently lacks foods such as those above, experimenting foods may be exactly what you need to have a better nights sleep and avoid sleep interruptions like bad dreams, night terrors and sleep walking.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sleeping Disorders - Drinks before bed

Drinks that help sleep
What you drink in the hours before heading to bed and falling asleep can have a major bearing on the quality and quantity of rest that you will experience every night. If you are having trouble falling asleep and are unable to identify or haven't been diagnosed with a sleeping disorder pay careful attention to what you're consuming during the day.

Here are a few things to consider

is great for hydration but our bodies have another response to it – the bathroom. An excess of water before bed can cause you to get up during the night so limit what you drink in the hours before your bedtime. Warm water vcan be very soothing and is a good alternative to a cup of tea or coffee.

Warm milk
is probably the most common recommendation for food before bed time. There is little evidence that it has a significant physiological effect, the amino acids and hormones present are miniscule but it may have a psychological benefit.

Drinking a warm glass of milk before bedtime is very comforting, and may take us back to relaxing safe themes of childhood and mothering. The routine can be helpful to prepare our bodies to ready for sleep

Herbal teas
such as peppermint, jasmine, spearmint and lavender can help you relax before bedtime and may aid the sleep process. Chamomile tea is especially effective. It is a calmative and works as a mild sedative It can help with the anxiety of being unable to drift off to sleep.

Alcohol will help you fall asleep, in small doses it is a sedative. However it prevents the brain from entering the deeper stages of sleep and will result in a less restive night. One or two drinks will probably not have much effect but if you regularly drink more than this it may be a leading cause of your sleeping problems. Try a few days without a drink and see what happens, it might be the best change you can make to your life.

Any more than a few drinks and the sedative effect will reverse, it becomes a stimulant. This will lead to even more troubles with sleep

Coffee and tea contain caffeine, which is a stimulant. If you’re having problems with falling asleep avoid these caffeinated drinks, and chocolate and cocoa for up to 8 hours before bedtime. The stimulant will increase the activity in our nervous systems and make the process of drifting off increasingly difficult. If you drink a lot of coffee at the moment, cut down gradually to avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms.