(Read about Alternatives to CPAP therapy)
There are three broad categories of sleep problems: Sleep Hygiene, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)
In developed countries, not getting enough good sleep has become the new epidemic. For one thing, we tend to, as they say, burn the candle at both ends by working more and sleeping less. We disrupt our sleep cycles by staring at bright computer screens at night confusing our bodies into thinking it is daytime instead of nighttime. Having poor sleep habits such as these is called sleep hygiene. And we can certainly help ourselves a great deal by changing our behavior to incorporate better sleep habits.
However, even if we get enough hours of sleep, we often don’t get enough good quality sleep due to poor breathing because of narrow or even blocked airways. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and its close cousin Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) are the two main causes of poor-quality sleep.
The body uses the hours during sleep to repair itself after a day of working and thinking. Many different systems are at work at night than during the day. Different hormones turn on while others turn off. In addition to the common symptoms of snoring, daytime drowsiness and morning headaches, there are many negative effects on the body such as high blood pressure, diabetes, increased risk for stroke and heart attack, anxiety, depression and obesity among others.
The problem comes from restricted upper airways (UARS) or restricted lower airways (OSA) that become worse when we sleep. Muscles weaken as we age allowing the airway to collapse due to gravity when we lie down. Because of our soft, processed-food diets, over the generations our jaws have been under developing and are smaller causing less space for the tongue. When there is not enough space for the tongue, there is no place for it to go except to fall back into the airway. While we are sleeping, if the body detects that we are not getting enough oxygen it will send a jolt of adrenaline to cause us to at least partially wake up and take a breath. Sometimes this involves a simple shift in position to open the airway. Sometimes, if breathing has stopped for a significant period of time, a person can wake up gasping for breath. Either way, there is now adrenaline flowing through the system keeping the body tense rather than relaxed so it can not repair and restore itself as it should. Lack of good nighttime restoration causes all sorts of illnesses such as brain fog, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia, even some cancers.
Normal breathing is silent and through your nose. It is quite and effortless. It allows our bodies to go into a normal deep, restorative sleep and to awake refreshed and ready to take on each new day.
There are many reasons to breathe through your nose. The nose slows down the flow of air to your lungs. In the process it warms, humidifies and filters the air to protect from germs and viruses. Some cells in the lining of the nose produce nitric oxide which, not only helps to kill viruses, but improves oxygen uptake to the lungs by about 18%.
Symptoms of Obstructed Breathing
LOUD & PERSISTENT
GASPING or COKING DURING SLEEP
AFTERNOON CRASHES (OR WORSE, CAR CRASHES)
MORNING DRY MOUTH
HEAD, NECK, TMJ, MIGRAINE, EVEN BACK PAIN
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
DEPRESSION + ANXIETY
Dr. Leslie Haller of Dental Solutions of South Florida is your Miami sleep apnea expert. She is a whole-health doctor who treats the oral aspects of whole-body health. She offers home sleep study testing if you are not sure you have sleep apnea. And if you already know that you have sleep apnea, she offers alternatives to CPAP therapy.