Sleep Apnea

( [email protected] ) Jul 05, 2005 11:17 PM EDT

Apnea is a Greek word meaning ¡°want of breath,¡± so sleep apnea is then want of breath that occurs during sleep. Since breath is the first and foremost necessity of human life, want of breath during sleep can lead to tragic consequences. In fact, the U.S. National Commission on Sleep Disorders estimates that there are 38,000 deaths that occur annually from sleep apnea.

There are two types of sleep apnea. One is the result of lack of nerve stimuli to the breathing organs. This condition is relatively rare. The much more common and treatable form of sleep apnea occurs when the respiratory passages are obstructed, thereby blocking the intake of life-giving oxygen and impeding the removal of deadly carbon dioxide. The resultant oxygen deficiency/carbon dioxide excess will usually jolt a person out of deep sleep, though people aren¡¯t always aware of this sleep disruption.

While loud snoring is typical in those with sleep apnea, most snorers do not suffer from sleep apnea. Sufferers of sleep apnea have many more symptoms, such as choking sensations in the night, headaches in the morning and sleepiness and spaciness during the day. People with sleep apnea are commonly overweight, they often have hypertension, lymph congestion and/or nasal congestion and their symptoms are usually made worse by alcohol and relaxants. They also tend to sleep with their mouths open causing the tongue and mouth to stretch and blockage to occur in the throat.

If you think you have sleep apnea, here¡¯s a simple test to determine if nasal congestion is a factor. Close your mouth and breathe through your nose. Then press on the outside of one nostril so that you can only breathe through the other one. Gently lift the outer edge of the open nostril and note if breathing improves. Repeat on the other side.

If you have difficulty breathing through your nose, but it improves when you lift the outer edge of the nostril, you may have an obstruction in the outer nose which can be improved by using a nose brace (see

If you have no trouble breathing through your nose, but have other symptoms of sleep apnea, it may be that your blockage is due from sleeping with your mouth open. Try using a simple chin strap that is designed to hold your mouth closed during sleep so that you breathe through your nose.

If you have trouble breathing through your nose and it doesn¡¯t improve when you lift the outer edge of your nostril, then you most likely have internal nasal congestion from immune activity such as colds, allergies, lymph congestion, asthma, nasal polyps, etc. These health conditions can be treated by your naturopathic physician. The benefits of following a naturopathic program may include a decrease in weight, allergies, asthma and lymph decongestion and an increase in vitality.