Insomnia, Snoring, Sleep Apnea

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Archive for the ‘cpap’ Category

Did Shaq Retire Because of Sleep Apnea?

Posted by amykr on June 5, 2011

Shaquille O’Neal recently let the world know he has sleep apnea. He shared his experience of testing and treating it with the world on You Tube. A month later he is announcing his retirement from professional sports. Is it possible that the long term effects of sleep apnea have caused him to feel he has come to the end of his career sooner than he could have? Did his poor sleep from traveling and changing time zones add to the problems he was already having?

Sleep is important to everyone but for an athlete it is an essential part of training. Getting slow wave sleep is where the body releases its growth hormone and heals itself. This deep sleep occurs during the first third of the night. If, like Shaq, you stop breathing 20-39 times an hour it becomes impossible for the body to reach this portion of sleep. Add to the inability the stress of his oxygen dropping throughout the night so he is unable to give enough oxygen to his muscles and you do not get fed. Finally add the stress all this lack of sleep on the body as a whole will keep his body from healing properly.

Shaq also lived a life that kept him from having good sleep hygiene. Traveling and the constant change of time would cause issues with his ability to go to sleep and wake up. The body works best when it has a routine and with constant changes not only of time but also the light that stimulates the brain to help regulate the body rhythm can make the brains ability to shut down difficult.

If Shaq had actually treated his sleep apnea earlier it might have helped improve his health significantly. As this stress works on the body it contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and current research has even linked it to certain types of cancer. The body needs rest to recover and it needs rest to reboot our brain and help with our short term memory. When we do not get this solid rest we pay a price with out health. Although Shaq has played professional ball for 19 years he may have been able to go that 20th season if he had just rested a little better.

What lessons can we learn from this in our own lives? We should listen to our bodies. Snoring and fatigue are not normal. They are signs that should be listened to and discussed with your doctor. If you live alone and do not know if you snore but have other health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes that are not improving even on medication you might want to ask your doctor about sleep apnea. You might also think that sleep apnea is just for those who are overweight, this is not the case. You can be any size or shape and have sleep apnea. It is more about how your airway is built then how much fat you carry on your body.

Overall sleep is important to your health and if you get a good night sleep each night you will find that your health and your energy levels should improve.


Posted in cpap, health care, Sleep Apnea | 1 Comment »

5 Reasons Why People Fail at Using CPAP

Posted by amykr on February 15, 2011

CPAP therapy is considered the gold standard for treating sleep apnea. It is a machine that uses a mask of some type to deliver a specific pressure of air to help keep the airway open. The problem with CPAP therapy is that it does take getting used to in order to be successful in using it nightly. There are some very specific reasons that people fail to be able to adjust to it and there a definitely ways to overcome these obstacles to be successful and feel better.

1. There is a lack of communication. Many patients are afraid they are disturbing someone if they call when they are having issues with their CPAP. The truth is that if you want to be successful using your machine you need to communicate your issues with a professional. Depending on who you are working with you should call your doctor, the company that set up the machine or the sleep lab who performed your study. There can be many issues but if no one knows you are having problems then the problem can not be fixed.
2. You have the wrong mask. If you had a sleep study where they fit you with a mask you must remember that you were only there for a short time. A mask might seem right during the study but may not fit as well at home. You may also find that although the mask is good the first couple of night after wearing it for a week it may not be as comfortable. In most cases insurance will pay for a change of mask during the first 2-4 weeks after your machine is delivered. This may not be true for those who have an HMO where the insurance company may dictate which mask you are given. In those cases it may benefit you to purchase a mask that might fit you better. It may cost you but it will be worth it in the end. Also those who have sensitive spots from the mask may benefit from having two masks to rotate through to change the pressure point.
3. You do not use the humidifier. Many patients think that the humidifier is an optional piece of equipment but it is not. It is essential that you use the humidifier and that you set it to the appropriate setting. In the winter you will need more humidification then during the summer due to the air being dryer. If you do not get enough humidity you will find your mouth, nose and sinuses will get sore, swollen. You may also find that you will develop a stuffy nose due to the welling of the nasal tissue and the increase of mucus being secreted to deal with it.
4. The pressure is too high or too low. The goal of the sleep lab is to find the lowest pressure needed to eliminate most of your respiratory events. However, just because they achieved a final pressure does not mean that it is the best pressure for you. Remember you are only in the sleep lab for one night and it is not the optimal sleep conditions. You are wearing wires, sleeping in a strange bed and it is usually the first time you have ever tried on a CPAP mask. The pressure achieved may be a little high or a little low. It may be that you need a higher pressure then you can handle. No matter what the issue there are certain procedures that must be followed before lowering the pressure. You will probably be asked to try a different mask. This is to see if the issue is not pressure but comfort. You may then have to see the sleep specialist before he is willing to turn you pressure down. This is because he is ultimately responsible for making sure your care is the best you can receive.
5. You did not give yourself enough time. This is long term therapy. That means you will be using this equipment for a long time. So give yourself a little time to get used to it. For the first few days if you feel uncomfortable wearing it at night. Put it on while you are sitting in your recliner in the living room. Wear it for about an hour. Get used to it. Then increase your time wearing it. Usually be the end of the first one or two weeks you should be ready to sleep with it.

CPAP therapy is an important part of keeping you healthy if you have sleep apnea. Giving up before you give the therapy some time will do nothing to improve your health and in the long run can have very serious consequences. Remember your doctor and the people who have worked with you want you to be successful.

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Support Is the Key to CPAP Success

Posted by amykr on December 11, 2010

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 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 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. 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.

Physician Sites 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. 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.

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CPAP Solutions for the Winter

Posted by amykr on December 10, 2010

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.

Posted in cpap, health care, Sleep | 2 Comments »

Should I Have a Home Sleep Study or Go to the Lab?

Posted by amykr on March 23, 2010

Technology has come a long was and studying sleep is no exception. We are now able to perform sleep studies in the home as well as the sleep lab. This is a great thing because it allows more people to be tested for sleep disorders then every before. The drawback is that there are limitations to what can be done in the home versus the lab.

In home sleep studies are generally modified unsupervised sleep studies. This means that the equipment is delivered to the patient and then they are responsible for applying it and taking it off. In some areas a technician will come out in the evening to apply the equipment and you will wear it the rest of the night, then you may have to take it off or the technician will come back in the morning and remove it. Generally these types of studies are limited in nature and only monitors certain parameters, oxygen level, heart rate, breathing, and whether you are awake or sleep and position. Because the study is limited it is designed strictly to diagnoses sleep apnea. Other conditions a person may have will not be diagnosed, such a periodic limb movement disorder and teeth grinding. This type of testing is also not good for patient with significant health issues such as congestive heart failure or COPD.

In lab testing has several differences. The first one is there is a technician there with you if any problems should arise. If one of the wires become dislodged it can be fixed right away. You do not need to have another study performed. The technician is also there to answer questions should you have any during the nights. The most important role of the technician, however, is that they can intervene if there is a significant health issue during the night. They can also do a special type of study called a split night, or combination study, which allows you to be diagnosed and treated for your sleep apnea on the same night. This way if you have severe sleep apnea you can be treated right away instead of waiting. You also are able to be evaluated for other conditions you may not know you had.

Treating sleep apnea after the home sleep study can occur in two different ways as well. You can be brought into the sleep lab for a titration study. During this test the technician finds a mask that works for you, educates you about CPAP and how it works and then finds the right pressure to eliminate most of the apneas and snoring. This test also allows the doctor to look for the other disorders such as periodic limb movements.

The other option for treatment is to have a homecare company deliver an auto-titrating CPAP. This machine is set to allow a range in pressure that adjusts as you have events during the night. The technician will fit you for a mask and then leave the machine for you to use. The drawback is that there is no one there during that first night to assist you if there is an issue. The other issue is that unless you call your doctor or the company that delivered the machine they may not be able to correct any problems that happen until they download the information in the CPAP memory.

Overall home sleep studies do have a place in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. They are very good for diagnosing the straight forward sleep apnea patient. If, however, there is any issues that need to be addressed right away or if a person needs some assistance this may not be the best choice. A full sleep study allows for the possibility for quicker treatment and intervention. There is also the ability to diagnose other conditions that might go unnoticed in the home setting. That and the personal care involved in testing help to create a successful long term care situation.

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