Causes and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea & How to Overcome Them

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a serious health issue, if you think you may have sleep apnea, see a sleep professional right away.

Major symptoms of sleep apnea include
Loud snoring
Stop breathing during sleep or wake up gasping
Here is a comprehensive list of symptoms and information about sleep apnea.

936 million people around the globe have sleep apnea according to a new study this week!

Yes, you read that correctly, almost 1 billion people have sleep apnea around the world! The study reported in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine is the first prevalence update for sleep apnea in about a decade.

Previous estimates (from 2007) reported about 100 million were suffering from sleep apnea, this new data presented at the American Thoracic Society Annual meeting indicates those suffering have increased by 10X! Possibly even more alarming is that the study researchers are reporting that about 85% of these people are undiagnosed.

With the numbers of people afflicted by sleep apnea, which is such a dangerous sleeping disorder, on the rise there is an incredible need to increase education about sleep apnea, how it affects your health, treatment options available, and how to maintain compliance on treatment.

I have written about sleep apnea many times, but today I want to share something new for current CPAP users: a comparison of CPAP cleaning devices.

There are 3 basic categories I want to discuss:

  • Soap and water
  • Ultra-violet light
  • Ozone

I recently read an article discussing the various cleaning methods for CPAP machines, and to be honest, I don’t think I could have done a better job so I’m sharing this article with you here: New Tech Freshens the CPAP Cleaners’ Market.

If you use CPAP, it’s important to clean and maintain your machine, and as you can see there are numerous options available to you.

Is Your Sleep Data Obsession Making Your Sleep Worse?

This week the New York Times technology editor wore a sleep tracker and wrote an article about his experience. He used the Apple watch and their new app interface called AutoSleep (Apple watches do not have a sensor in them according to the article). Not surprisingly he wrote:

“Ultimately, the technology did not help me sleep more. It didn’t reveal anything that I didn’t already know, which is that I average about five and a half hours of slumber a night. And the data did not help me answer what I should do about my particular sleep problems. In fact, I’ve felt grumpier since I started these tests.”

His experience is similar to the results found during a study conducted at Rush University Medical College identifying how sleep trackers can, in some cases, cause orthosomnia. This is the idea that by tracking your sleep you are potentially making it worse.

Here are the reasons I think orthosomnia can occur:

Accuracy– are you getting upset about data that in fact might not be accurate? Sleep is a complicated metric to measure. In the sleep lab, it takes 27 electrodes (although I might argue that’s overkill), to measure sleep so it’s not very surprising that trackers are less accurate.

Hint: Look at the relative not absolute data. If your tracker says that you get 5 minutes of REM every night, of course you know that’s probably impossible, but if the measurement is consistent, then it’s probably ok. BUT if you get 3 min of REM and then 203 the next night, you may want to investigate what happened.

Your Personality– are you the type of person who is a little obsessive-compulsive? Your personality will certainly have an effect on how you interpret the data you’re reviewing.

Hint: Check-in with someone who is either knowledgeable about sleep or ask them to track their sleep. This way you can get some feedback. Remember you’re not alone, you have resources. If you can find someone to track with you, then they may be able to help you understand your data (or at least you will see someone else only have 3 min of REM).

Your solution– does the tracker give you some solutions to the reported issue, or does it only frustrate you by merely reporting that you have the issue.  For example, if it tells you that you get restless sleep, but not how to sleep more peacefully than is it actually helping? I call this the “who cares” factor.

Hint: There are some tracking devices that have an advice engine which does give personalized recommendations based on your previous night’s rest. You may have to do some research to find one that works for you, but there are some on the market.

However, let’s not complicate things or rely on technology when let’s be honest, this is not always complicated to determine the cause and effect for some sleep challenges.  For example, if you have 6 awakenings after eating a chili cheese dog close to bedtime the night before, you probably know what’s affecting your sleep.

Weighted Blankets, the REMZY Solution:

This past Friday and Saturday I was a guest on the Home Shopping Network (video here) educating watchers about the benefits of the REMZY Weighted Blanket. The HSN hosts were surprised how many people reported it helps them “shut their brain down at night” and how it helps them feel less restless while they sleep.

The most common complaint I hear from people about their sleep is how difficult it is to wind down and get their mind into a calm and peaceful place so they can fall asleep. I always share this solution with them because it’s so easy to implement and doesn’t require much to feel the benefits. It’s not hard to crawl under a blanket at night!

If you’re in this group of people who also feel “I can’t turn off my brain at night” you may find it interesting that although we still don’t fully understand how they work, we do know the weight (about 12 lbs.) seems to help our nerve endings feel support, which then allows us to relax. It’s a little like getting into a hammock. Getting into the hammock is a bit challenging, but once your body feels that support, you really start to relax. Many people who use the blanket report that it feels like a big HUG, which allows them to calm down and get some rest.

I’ve also written about weighted blankets in my blog and their usefulness in certain populations. We see that they can be especially effective for people in the Autism community, the ADD and ADHD community, and for many people with anxiety.

That’s it for this week, but I’m already digging in and finding more great sleep information I think you’ll enjoy for next week as well!

Sweet Dreams!
Dr. Michael Breus