A Majority of Americans With Sleep Apnea Are Unaware They Have It

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 by: Deanna Dean
Tags: sleep apnea, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Do you wake up in the morning with a dry mouth and sore throat? Are you irritable and tired throughout the day and suffer from headaches? Do you have trouble remembering or learning things? You may be among the 90% who have no earthly idea they are victim to one of the most common types of sleep related breathing disorders, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This condition disrupts breathing while you are asleep, sometimes over 100 times throughout the night. You may have no recollection that you struggled for breath, snored, choked and gasped to get your breath back.

The National Institute of Health states that 12 million Americans are affected with OSA, the more serious form of sleep apnea. There is a lack of awareness by both the public and health professionals, so unfortunately the majority of us remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can be life threatening and is as common as adult diabetes today.

Most of us don't understand what happens when we have OSA. We're unaware the body is starved of oxygen which can cause a dangerous drop in oxygen levels. Drastic, life threatening problems can develop when the organs of the body are affected in this way and your risks for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke increase dramatically. If you fear your memory and learning problems are an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer's, it may not be that at all but rather OSA and the drop in oxygen levels when you stop breathing repeatedly during the night.

Concurrently, sleep deprivation compromises the immune system, induces poor mental and emotional health, causes irritability, and slows our reaction time. In fact untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.

Sleep apnea may be treated by simply changing your behavior: Get treatment for allergies or sinus problems, stabilize sleep hours, sleep on your side, gargle with salt water, use an air humidifier by your bedside, eliminate drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and lose excess weight; which are good health habits to establish regardless.

Along with behavioral changes, the powerful antioxidants found in green tea may help thwart cognitive problems associated with OSA, according to a study published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Green tea contains compounds called polyphenols which work by counteracting oxidative stress or cell damage in the brain. Signs of oxidative stress and changes in the brain have been documented among some patients with OSA, the study cites. Green tea polyphenols may represent a potential interventional strategy for patients with this sleep disorder says David Gozal, study author, MD, and professor and director of Kosair Children's Hospital Research Institute at the University of Louisville.

An unusual remedy that has captured the interest of Jan Hedner, MD at Sahlgrenska University, Goteborg, Sweden is the benefit from an ingredient in a poisonous African bean. The drug, physostigmine, is the main ingredient of the deadly Calabar bean, once used in Africa in certain rituals. After testing on patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Hedner and his colleagues concluded that this strange ingredient may cut the number of breathing pauses in patients with OSA and provide a new treatment option if the results are maintained in long-term studies. The findings appear in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Other studies are being conducted using 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), a safe and natural compound produced by the body from tryptophan and found in many foods, but most commonly extracted from the seeds of the Griffonia plant. 5-HTP has been standard for decades in Europe to treat depression and sleep problems among other things. Use of it is in the early stages here in the USA, and as clinical studies show, is of benefit in the treatment of sleep disorders.

Accessible treatments are out there which include the use of a mask-like machine (CPAP); not that attractive to wear as part of your bedtime attire, but effective at keeping the airflow smoothly flowing through your airways. There are also small devices which can be comfortably inserted into the mouth at night to hold your tongue in place and another type that forces the lower jaw forward and down to open the airway.

You can find more information by consulting a sleep specialist at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, your local support group, A.W.A.K.E. (American Sleep Apnea Association), and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.

If you're suffering from some of the symptoms discussed here, don't assume it's just an unfortunate bad night's sleep. It could be a bad night's sleep with dire consequences. If you're one of the 12 million with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, get diagnosed and begin treatment.

In good health,

Deanna Dean

Burckhardt, I. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, May 2008: vol 177; pp.1135-1141, 2008 WebMD, LLC

WebMD Medical News Daniel J. DeNoon
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, November 2003; vol 168: pp1246-1257. News release, American Thoracic Society

Kelli Miller Stacy, WebMD Health News, Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD May 16, 2008

About the author

Deanna Dean is the Wellness Director for Your Health Coach, a company dedicated to health and wellness education.
Dee is a Wellness & Weight Loss Coach, a Certified Natural Health Professional, is pursuing an ND degree-Naturopathic Doctor, is a certified Raw Chef, certified in Dietary Guidelines from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, former Personal Trainer, Yoga and Fitness Studio Owner, TV and Radio Guest, Health Columnist.
Deanna develops customized programs to enhance the health of her clients, educates, and coaches dieters for safe weight loss.

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