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Recognising Sleep Disorders; Don’t become a Statistic!

August 04th, 2011

It’s the middle of the night and your unconscious body is found by firemen. You are either lying motionless beside your bed or slumped over on the toilet (statistically the two common places to die). You have had a serious complication from an ongoing sleep disorder, a condition you many not have even known that you have. Many people die needlessly each year from sleep disorder related problems and but you can avoid becoming a statistic by recognising the common signs of sleep disorders.

What is a sleep disorder?

Sleep-related breathing disorders range from habitual snoring to airway resistance (UARS), airway obstruction, along with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), which are now recognised as causing major health problems and premature death.

OSAS is a killer which works mostly at night. During sleep, it chokes victims hundreds of times; gravity pulls the lower jaw, tongue uvula, and other tissues into the throat. The real villain, a blocked airway, and can be heard in the unique choking, broken snores, groans, grunts and gasps.

If you know anyone with these symptoms, early diagnosis and treatment is key and may ease their discomfort, (something Anti-hypertensive drugs do not always do), and may reduce blood pressure and prevent the progression of renal (kidney) and cardiovascular (heart) damage as well.

Firemen tell me, the morning fire alarms one hears between 4am and 9am are often not for fires; Sleep disordered breathing often causes an early morning heart attack. The dead or dying victim is usually found one step out of bed or sitting on the toilet- the two common places to die, from problems that may involve sleep disorders. This is because blood oxygen dips during sleep, causes night time low oxygen (hypoxia) which changes circadian rhythms and affects both blood oxygen and blood pressures during the day.

Too often sufferers are being treated for “the end result “only. “Two end results” are Hypertension, (known as high blood pressure) and morning heart attacks.

Sleep disorders can make one too embarrassed to go out for dinner with friends for fear of falling asleep? Sleep disorders are also accompanied by mood swings, morning headaches, depression and sleepiness causing spouse and companionship difficulties, poor job performance, lost productivity, and social problems?

Ignorance can be bliss …for a while! Did you know that Sleep disorders are blamed for $56 billion per year in sleep related automobile accidents; $16 billion a year in direct medical costs. This is a health tragedy.

In my TMD practice, most people with sleep disorders do not know they have had it for years, but the people they live and sleep with do!

What are the common signs of a sleep disorder?

  • Sleep disruptions (choking sounds, broken snores, groans, grunts and gasps)
  • Hypertension
  • Chronic Fatique
  • Hypertension
  • Mood swings
  • Morning headaches
  • Depression and Sleepiness (causing spouse and companionship difficulties)
  • Poor Job Performance (lost productivity and social problems)
  • Chest Pain and Numbness (Signs of a possible heart attack)

What can be done?

  • Sleep Disorder Questionnaire: Fill out the Epworth Sleepiness Scale which is an on-line questionnaire which will help you decide if you have a sleep problem.
  • Hypertension: If you have hypertension, ask your doctor for a night time pulse- oximetry oxygen screen. This is done using a small portable memory pulse -oximeter which attaches to the finger. This device records several nights of sleep data in your own bed.
  • Surgery: Ear, nose and throat physicians offer a variety of surgeries to reduce sleep disorders: nasal surgery, uvula and throat tissue removal or tissue shrinkage. Studies give mixed reviews of these treatment costs vs., their benefits. It makes sense to also learn about all non surgical treatment options
  • Oral Devices: Recent research shows that an oral dental device worn at night can help some people. The device brings the jaw forward and opens the airway, the effectiveness can be checked by pulse-oximetry. Some web sites for more information are:
  • Facemask Pump: Dr.Wayne Halstrom | DrHalstrom.com.  of Vancouver at  1-800-399-4659, has invented the Silencer as a snoring device which features a key component milled from titanium called the Halstrom Hinge.™ It is this patented and remarkably simple, yet elegant design, that provides this oral appliance with it’s unique abilities. This can be an alternative to CPAP (a machine that pumps air into the lungs through a mask) and surgery. The CPAP is considered the gold standard for treating sleep disorders, unfortunately wearing a facemask at night and the noise of the pump makes people hesitant to wear it long term, so the sleep disorder often returns as patients discontinue use.


Sleep Health Resources:

In this newsletter, credit must be given to “Your Jaws, Your life” by David C. Page DDS (ISBN 0-9717368-1-2) for many of the facts I have written about today. This book is a valuable resource.

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