If you have sleep apnea, your doctor may have prescribed a C-PAP machine to help you sleep better. But if you’re like most people, the C-PAP isn’t a great solution. It’s loud, difficult to sleep with, and difficult to travel with, to name a few of its problems.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to treat sleep apnea. Several years ago, I found a very effective, inexpensive, safe, and easy way to treat all three kinds of sleep apnea. Unlike the C-PAP setup, this solution is lightweight, comfortable, and allows you to sleep on your side. It also doesn’t use any pressure, so there are none of the other complications of C-PAP.
Last week, I introduced you to Anita. Anita had a bad problem. She was tired every day; often to the point of complete exhaustion. She had been this way for several years, and now it seemed that there was no relief in sight. After passing out in her kitchen one day, an ambulance took her to the emergency room. That’s when her life changed.
A very astute emergency room doctor gave her the diagnosis no other doctor had been able to do. He told her he thought she had sleep apnea.
Now Anita was not typical of most people with sleep apnea. She wasn’t overweight, and she didn’t snore. But the emergency doctor insisted that her symptoms indicated sleep apnea.
The Wrong Way to Treat Sleep Apnea
After the emergency room doctor suggested sleep apnea, Anita went to an overnight sleep lab. Fortunately for her, her insurance company paid for it. And the test successfully diagnosed central sleep apnea (CSA). CSA is a disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
To treat her CSA, her doctor prescribed C-PAP. C-PAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” C-PAP is the most commonly prescribed treatment for all forms of apnea. And that’s unfortunate. While C-PAP is usually very effective at correcting apnea, many patients consider it worse than the condition it’s treating. Here are a few reasons why:
• C-PAP is incredibly awkward. Imagine having to sleep with an appliance strapped over your face that’s continuously shooting pressurized air into your nose. How well do you think you would sleep?
• The noise from the pump is enough to wake up even the heartiest sleeper, including anyone else trying to sleep in the same room.
• It’s almost impossible to sleep on your side. You have to sleep on your back. And sleeping on the back tends to worsen most cases of sleep apnea.
• The continuous pressure of air in the nose and pharynx tends to dry out the upper airway. This results in a dry, stuffy, congested nose, which can then lead to allergies and cause sinus infections.
• It can also cause problems when you travel or go anywhere that electricity is not available, like camping.
Overall, even though C-PAP usually does successfully correct sleep apnea, patients still feel tired and rundown. So it’s not surprising that many patients stop using the device and just accept their symptoms. That was certainly the case with Anita.
When I first met her, Anita had stopped using her C-PAP for over six months. And she still complained of fatigue, sleepiness, and depression. I performed an overnight home oximetry, and it was the worst tracing I had ever seen. It showed that when she was awake, her oxygen levels were normal. But when she fell asleep, they were low 100% of the time! This is a clear indication of CSA.
So how do you fix CSA? First, always remember that God designed the body to heal itself. And most of the time it will do just that as long as it has all the tools it needs to do the job, and as long as you remove any impediments to healing.
With CSA, what might the body need that it isn’t getting? Here’s an interesting statistic that might offer a clue. Approximately one in five people who suffer from depression also suffer from sleep apnea, and people with sleep apnea are five times more likely to become depressed. So while it’s not clear whether the apnea causes the depression or vice-versa, I decided to treat Anita’s depression using the amino acid tyrosine. At the same time I also started her on a general program of healthy eating combined with vitamin, mineral, and hormonal supplements.
I then looked for heavy metals because I know that heavy metal toxicity is very common. It also can poison the body’s system that maintains normal sleep breathing. Her results came back confirming excessive levels of both lead and cadmium. So I started her on weekly intravenous chelation therapy to pull these out of her body. Now all of this is very good, but the main thing the body needs to heal is oxygen.
So how can you get more oxygen without using the C-PAP? It’s really quite easy with a treatment I found several years ago.
How to Get More Oxygen When You Sleep
This simple treatment is called overnight oxygen per nasal cannula. A nasal cannula is one of those under-the-nose oxygen tubes that you see all the time in the hospital. A device that generates oxygen from room air, called an oxygen concentrator, supplies the oxygen. Oxygen concentrators do make some noise, but they are much less noisy than C-PAPs. And unlike C-PAPs, you can position them across the room, reducing the noise.
The rationale for using overnight oxygen per nasal cannula to treat apnea is obvious. If your breathing is decreased to the point that your oxygen levels fall, then breathing a higher concentration of oxygen should raise the levels to normal. And here’s the best news — it works really well.
Do you remember Anita? I told you some of her story last week. If you missed it, you can find it here. After I treated Anita with an amino acid and chelation therapy, I told her to try the oxygen cannula. I gave Anita about three weeks to get used to sleeping with the oxygen cannula, and then rechecked her overnight home oximetry. Her second tracing came back completely normal! I knew that we were on the right track.
When I saw her six weeks later, she told me that her energy levels were also normal. She was driving, staying up late, and pretty much doing whatever she wanted to do. A repeat check of her lab tests showed that her blood sugar and her cholesterol were now in the normal range. She was sleeping well, and was no longer feeling depressed.
Several months later, I was able to wean her off of her blood pressure medication, as it returned to normal.
So don’t assume that you don’t have sleep apnea just because you’re not overweight and don’t snore. If you’re seriously fatigued, do the overnight home oximetry. Most oxygen supply companies will supply one free of charge. If there’s any chance at all that you or someone you love might have sleep apnea, ask your doctor to order one. If it turns out positive, forget C-PAP, and go straight to using the overnight oxygen per nasal cannula system.
No matter what kind of sleep apnea you may have, it’s also important to abstain from alcohol and tranquilizers, get regular exercise, and lose any unnecessary weight. Once this is done, if you primarily have OSA, the chances are good that you will be able to stop the oxygen eventually. But for some, especially those who have a high central apnea component, it may be necessary to use it indefinitely.
But That’s Not All
Although most cases of apnea will respond completely to overnight oxygen per nasal cannula, more serious cases of OSA may not. These cases often require the use of a plastic dental appliance that fits in the mouth. These simple dental splints can make all the difference in the world.
Dental splints are so effective that about 30% of all OSA can be completely eliminated by using one, without any oxygen at all. But in order for you to understand how these devices work, you need to know what causes snoring and OSA.
Both snoring and OSA are caused by the same thing — a blockage in the airway. The blockage occurs when the tongue and soft palate fall back in the throat when you lay down to sleep. The problem is especially bad when you sleep on your back. To compensate for the blockage, the body will automatically increase strength of the breathing effort. And, to some extent, if the blockage is not too bad, this increased effort will allow the body to get enough oxygen.
In this case the only problem will be the snoring sound that occurs as the air struggles to get past the obstruction. OSA is more serious. OSA is what happens when the obstruction cannot be overcome by simply breathing harder.
In the case of OSA, the airflow that’s needed to overcome the obstruction is so great that it’s like trying to drink through a straw that’s stuck in ice cream; the harder you suck, the flatter the straw becomes, and the worse the blockage becomes. And the worse the blockage is, the less oxygen gets to the brain. At some point, this becomes so severe that the body literally stops breathing. At that point, of course, your brain is getting no oxygen at all!
Dental splints work by preventing or limiting the ability of the tongue and soft palate to fall back and cause the obstruction. Often only a small decrease in the level of obstruction is all that’s needed to stop OSA. It’s a simple, easy, and inexpensive solution. And it really works.
When I first learned about dental splints, I began sending my patients to a dentist in Los Angeles who specialized in custom splints for this purpose. That was until I learned that they were charging $2,000-$3,000 for the fitting. Somehow, I thought, that can’t be right. So I began to look into the matter myself. I eventually discovered a company called Distar. Distar markets an FDA-approved dental splint called the TheraSnore.
The TheraSnore appliance is the world’s leading anti-snoring dental splint. It was invented right here in the U.S. by Dr. Thomas Meade. And more than one million people have used one to date. It’s one of the least expensive and most successful medical treatments for simple snoring, and for OSA. And, best of all, you don’t need to be a dentist, have dental equipment, or visit a dentist to custom fit and adjust this splint.
Anita was the first one I ever fitted for a TheraSnore dental splint. The results were great.
After several sessions of adjustments and re-fitting (remember this was my first one!), Anita was very happy. She was no longer snoring, and her OSA was a thing of the past. Her overnight oximetry sleep study was completely normal. So now, as long as she has her dental splint and her oxygen, she is completely free of sleep apnea. And she obtained this great result without surgery and without C-PAP.
Since Anita, I have had several other equally satisfying cases using this splint to treat OSA. And, so far, I have not had any failures. The manufacturers say that their research shows that the splint is 93% effective in treating mild to moderate cases of snoring.
It takes me about an hour to custom fit the splint. And here’s the really good news — the total charge is only $500. In many cases, this cost is reimbursed by insurance.
So if you have OSA, and your doctor told you that you need either surgery or C-PAP, remember this: Surgery often doesn’t work and is loaded with side effects; and C-PAP is expensive, inconvenient, and cumbersome. Try the splint and/or oxygen by nasal cannula first, and only try these other modalities if you absolutely have to. To get a list of doctors and dentists using the TheraSnore splint, just go to the Distar website (www.distar.com).
A Simple Test to Know if You Have Sleep Apnea
If you don’t know if you snore or have sleep apnea, the Distar website has a simple test that can help you determine if you need further testing. According to the website: The Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS) “was developed at the Sleep Disorders Unit at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. According to clinical research published in Sleep, the journal of the American Sleep Disorders Association, it has proven to be very accurate in determining whether or not a snoring person also suffers from the obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).
“The ESS, takes only a few minutes to self-administer. Each of the eight situations is scored from 0 to 3 according to the simple directions. The total of these figures is the final score. According to the article, snorers who show no clinically significant obstructive sleep apnea had an average score of 6.5. Patients with OSAS scored an average of 11.7 on the ESS.
“The ESS should only be considered a subjective tool in evaluating your sleepiness. If you score 11 or more, there is a good chance you may have OSAS and you should seek the advice of your physician. However, the ESS cannot diagnose your condition and scoring less than 11 does NOT guarantee you do not have OSAS. If you feel you have any signs of OSAS, you should consult your physician.”
You can find this simple test here: http://www.distar.com/ess.html. If you score higher than 11 on this test, then the solutions I’ve outlined here should help you increase your oxygen intake, eliminate snoring, and reduce the score considerably.