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brain-damage

Studies show that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects much more than just your sleep. It can even damage your brain.

A recent brain imaging study from France involved 16 adults. Each of them had just been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

In numerous brain regions the study found a loss of “gray matter.” This is brain tissue that contains fibers and nerve cell  bodies. There also was a decrease in brain metabolism.

The authors suggest that these changes may explain some of the impairments that often occur in people with sleep apnea. Examples include attention lapses and memory loss. The study was published in March 2009 issue of the Journal of Sleep Research.

The results are similar to those found by a research team from UCLA. Their study was published in Neuroscience Letters in June 2008. They reported that people with sleep apnea have tissue loss in the “mammillary bodies.” These are brain regions that help store memory.

In July 2008 the UCLA team published another brain imaging study in the journal Sleep.It involved 41 people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. It also included 69 control subjects matched by age.

Results show that people with sleep apnea have extensive alterations in “white matter.” This is nerve tissue in the brain. It contains fibers that are insulated with myelin -a white, fatty sheath. The structural changes appear in brain regions that help control mood and memory. These regions also play a role in adjusting your blood pressure. Damage also was found in fiber pathways that connect these brain regions.

What causes the brain damage? The authors suggest that oxygen, blood flow and blood pressure may be involved. Sleep apnea involves breathing pauses that can occur hundreds of times a night of sleep. These pauses can produce drastic changes in oxygen levels.

These breathing pauses also reduce blood flow in the brain. People with sleep apnea also are at risk for high blood pressure. Both of these conditions create a potential for brain tissue damage.

Dr. Ronald Harper of UCLA said that the studies show how important it is for sleep apnea to be treated. CPAP is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. The findings make it all the more imperative that OSA be treated as soon as possible to prevent further injury. The long-term effects of OSA are terribly damaging to memory and thinking processes.

Can treatment reverse the brain damage caused by sleep apnea? The authors are uncertain if the changes are permanent.

But studies show that CPAP does help your heart, it may even save your life.

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mind-racing

Insomnia can make you feel like your mind is racing out of control. A revealing new study explains why your brain may be unable to put the brakes on your thoughts. It links the problem to low levels of a brain chemical.

A new study shows that GABA levels are reduced by 30 percent in adults with chronic primary insomnia. The study was published in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

GABA is reduced in the brain of individuals with insomnia, suggesting over activity is present. It was explained that low GABA levels create an imbalance of brain activity. This may lead to an inability to shut down waking signals in the brain.

If your GABA levels are low, then your mind can’t slow down. It may race forward at full speed even when it is time to sleep. An over active mind is a key feature of psychophsicological insomnia. At bedtime you are unable to stop thinking and worrying. Your body may be ready for sleep, but your mind remains alert. This state of “hyperarousal” can make it hard for you to fall asleep.

Most with insomnia have “secondary” insomnia. It occurs along with another medical problem, mental illness or sleep disorder. It also may result from the use of a medication or substance. In contrast primary insomnia is unrelated to another health problem. Estimates that about 25 percent of people with insomnia have primary insomnia. The study only links low GABA levels to long lasting, primary insomnia.

All participants in the study had been suffering from primary insomnia for mor than six months. The average duration of their symptoms was about 10 years. The GABA connection affirms that primary insomnia is a legitimate disorder.

Recognition that insomnia has manifestations in the brain may increase the legitimacy of those who have insomnia and report substantial daytime  consequences. It was also explained that insomnia can affect your energy, concentration and mood. It also increases your risk of depression.

One solution for the problem of primary insomnia is the use of hypnotic medication. The short-term use of a sleeping pill can help break the cycle of sleepless nights. The study notes that many of the most effective sleeping pills increase activity at the GABA neurons.

Another treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps you learn how to correct attitudes and habits that hinder your sleep. Many of these bad habits develop as people try to cope with chronic insomnia.

 
manheadacheWhen you’re feeling stressed on the job, it can be hard to leave work at the office. Your job may preoccupy your mind as you drive, as you eat, and as you interact with family or friends. But the battle to control your mind can intensify when you try to go to sleep.

Sleep and stress are competitors. When stress continually activating a part of the brain that is otherwised used for sleep, then stress wins the tug-of-war.

According the AASM, job stress can be a cause of adjustment insomnia. This involves disturbed sleep or sleeplessness that may last for a few days or a few weeks. Other symptoms may include anxiety, worry and tension.

A common feature of adjustment insomnia is “ruminative thoughts.”  This is when you dwell on the same thoughts, chewing them over and over in your mind. You may lie in bed staring at the ceiling, unable to stop thinking about work. Even when you finally fall asleep, your work may invade your dreams. The Staples National Small-Business Survey polled 302 owners and executives of small businesses, and more than half said they dream about work -or “sleepwork.”

Scientific research confirms that job stress can affect your sleep. In 2005 a study in the journal Sleep involved 8,770 Japanese workers. In both men and women, a high level of stress at work was liked to insomnia.

A 2007 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine linked insomnia to these three types of job stressors:

  • High work demand
  • Low influence over decisions
  • High professional compromise

The type of job stress you experience may affect your sleep in different ways. Another study linked work overload to poor sleep quality.  Having role conflicts at work was related to non-restorative sleep and trouble falling asleeo or staying asleep.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, sleep disturbances are one early warning sign of job stress. Others may include:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Short temper
  • Upset stomach
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Low morale

Job stress may be unavoidable. But sleep specialists say you can take steps to improve your sleep even when you are stressed.  Establishing a pattern of relaxing behaviors close to bedtime and limiting work to the early evening may help to reduce stress.

Here are jus a few more tips to help you be less restless with work worries:

  • Remain active
    Try to get some exervise every day. Both your mind and body will be more relaxed when its bedtime.
  • Express yourself
    Take some time to slow down before going to bed. Get away from the computer, turn off the TV and the cell phone, and relax quietly for 15 to 30 minutes. Take a warm bath, enjoy a light snack or listen to some soft music.
  • Avoid “bedwork”
    Never bring any work to bed with  you; your bed should be refuge from your job. Also avoid doing other activities in bed such as reading, watching TV or talking on the phone. Only use your bed for sleep.
  • Get out of bed
    If you have trouble falling asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleep agian. Tossing and turning will only increase your frustrations.
  • See a specialist
    Some doctors are specialists in behavioral sleep medicine. They can teach you how to relax at bedtime so you can fall asleep more easily.

saving money

 Current economic conditions in the U.S. are forcing many consumers to cut back on health care expenses. Yet sleep experts advise that the cost of a sleep study is a sound investment for millions of people who suffer from a sleep disorder.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 15 million adults in the U.S. did not receive needed medical care in 2005 because they could not afford it. In July, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners conduted a national survey. Results show that 22 percent of people have reduced the number of times they visit the doctor because to current economic conditions.

 In such a challenging economy, should your sleep needs be a priority?

Sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health. It affects everything from your weight and blood pressure to your energy and mood. If you have been struggling with an ongoing sleep problem, then a sleep study may be just what you need. It could be the key that unlocks the door to a dramatic improvement in your health and a better quality of life for you.

 Losing sleep over the economy, but losing sleep over an undiagnosed problem is no fun.

People are notorious for underestimating how sleepy they are. People assume that thier disrupted sleep and level of sleepiness when awake is normal for their age. Symptoms of some sleep disorders also can go unnoticed. For example loud snoring and gasping for breath durning sleep are two warning signs for sleep apnea. But you may be unaware of these sym if you live or sleep alone. As a result, millions of people go through each day wondering why they can’t stay awake. Others go to bed each night wondering why they can’t sleep. The answers to these questions often can be found by a sleep study…

    Here are some benefits to think about:
Research shows that there are numerous benefits to detecing a sleep disorder with a sleep study.  The study pinpoints the nature and cause of your sleep problem. This provides the foundation for an effective treatment plan. Treating a sleep disorder promotes heath, productivity and well-being. In the long run it also can save you money!

  • Improved Health
    Research has linked sleep disorders to many other health problems. These include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and obesity. A study in the journal Sleep even shows that people with severe, untreated sleep apnea have five times the risk of dying from a heart problem. Effective treatment of a sleep disorder can reduce the risk and severity of other related health challenges.
  • Reduced Spending
    Studies have linked undetected and untreated sleep disorders to an increase in health-care utilization and spending. You are likely to make more visits to the doctor’s office each year. You are also likely to spend more money on your health care. Expenses may include testing, medications and hospitalization. Research shows that effective treatment of a sleep disorder can reduce your health-care spending. Compared to the high cost of remaining untreated, treating most sleep disorders is relative inexpensive.
  • Greater Productivity
    Studies have linked sleep disorders to lower productivity and more absences at work. A severe sleep disorder may even prevent you from being able to stay employed. Effective treatments of a sleep disorder can enable you to improve your job performance.
  • Better Safety
    Research has linked sleep disorders to an increased risk of work-related injuries and motor-vehicle accidents. Effective treatments promotes your safety at work on the roads.
  • Improved Quality of Life
    Sleep disorders can take a severe tool on your personal well-being. Taking care of yourself leads to improvements in your mood, attitude, energy, memory and overall outlook on life. Sleep disturbances can put strain on your relationships.

Mysleepapnea.com can help you with obtaining a Home Sleep Test.

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HomeSleepQuiz

  Are you satisfied with your life? If not, how’s your sleep? A new study shows there may be a connection.

Life satisfaction and sleep quality are known to be important factors in your overall health and well-being. But how are they related?

Does poor sleep cause you to be less satisfied with your life? Or does low satisfaction with your life lead to sleep problems?

The researchers sought to find the an answer. Their study involved 18,631 same-sex twins in Finland.

They measured life satisfaction, sleep quality and other factors. Then they did a follow up six years later and recorded the same measures.

  What did they find? People who became dissatisfied with their life during the six years between study points were more likely to have had sleep problems. Fifty-nine pecent of these newly dissatified people had reported at the beginning of the styd that they sleep poorly.

The results also show that poor sleep predicted a consistent pattern of life dissatifaction. But the reverse wasn’t true; life dissatisfaction did not consistently predict poor sleep.

Studying twins also provided a genetic look at the connection. The study shows that both sleep quality and life satisfaction has a strong genetic component; there was substantial heritability for both traits.

Both genetic influence is different; the genetic component shared by sleep quality and lif satisfaction was relatively weak.

The study supports the idea that poor sleep may have direct effects on the brain, emotions and mood.

  So how is the quality of your sleep? You can get a better idea by completing this brief sleep evaluation.

Sleep disorders can be hard to identify, especially if their symptoms occure while you’re asleep. Amy Petrik, 40, spent three months and visited four doctors searching for the cause of her persistent laryngitis. Once she was diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea, she got back her voice -and reclaimed her health.

 It was about four years ago that I first began to wonder what exactly was wrong with me. I hadn’t felt well in quite some time, and my normally upbeat personality was dragging to the point where other people had started to notice.

I had memory problems, severe mood swings, and anxiety issues. I woke up every morning with headaches and a dry, swollen throat, and was getting up to use the bathroom several times a night.

I felt unhealthy and unhappy, but I work two jobs, so I just assumed I was overly tired. My days were filled with four-hour naps, and still occasionally nodded off. I mentioned my complaints to a few different doctors, but no one seemed to take them too seriously; even my elevated blood pressure and cholesterol level didn’t set off any alarms. And so I attributed it all to a mix of mild depression and extreme fatigue. (Only later did a sleep specailist tell me that depression, weight gain, and fatigue are all symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.)

A wake-up call to get help
In early February, I lost my voice for three full weeks. I mean literally: Not like laryngitis or just a sore throat, but I actually couldn’t make any sound but squeaks. I was terrified. My family physician was on vacation, so I saw another doctor in his practice. She whipped me into her office and within minutes took my vitals and diagnosed my with strep throat. I tried whispering to her what was going on, but she didn’t pay too much attention to my concerns. Without even giving me any test, she prescribed some medication and told me to come back in a week if I didn’ t improve.

I was back in seven days. The doctor claimed she didn’t have time to see me (my regular physician was still out), but I complanied enough by writing notes back and forth to the nurse on duty and was finally allowed  back into an exam room. I again explained, through writing, that my throat had not improved and that I needed help. Her only solutions? Hot tea with honey and vitamin C.

At this point I turned to an ear, nose, and throat specialist at the advice of some friends. He immediately saw the warning signs that everyone else had missed and scheduled me for a sleep study.

A sleep test and a scary diagnosis
I went to the sleep lab in early April. Afterward my ENT told me that I had the most danerous case of sleep apnea he had ever seen: He told me that I stopped breathing 120 times per hour, I wasn’t getting enough oxygen to my lungs, and my cardiovascular system was steadily wearing dow. It was mind-blowing. I can only remember sitting in his office crying uncontrollably, my mom doing all the talking.

It sounds overdramatic, but I knew I was going down the same path my father had taken: He was overweight the majority of his life, had high blood pressure, and all kinds of medical problems, including untreated sleep apnea. He passed away at 67, and I was afraid I’d end up just like him, gone too soon, if I didn’t get assistance right away.

Slow but steady treatment
The doctor told me that I had to lose a significant amount of weight to cure my sleep apnea, either that, or get a tracheotomy. Of course I didn’t want a hole in my throat, but I was looking for any help I could get: Losing weight seemed impossible, since I was exhausted all the time. One other option, although my doctor warned me that results may be minimal, was to remove my tonsils and adenoids. I had the surgery later that month, followed by another sleep study. I was disappointed: The setting for my CPAP machine went from 13 (the hightest possible pressure) just down to 11.

As a naturally clasustrophobic person, learning to use the CPAP machine has been difficult. The first night I took it home, I made my mom stay overnight because I was so terrified to sleep with it. I had to try three different types before I found one -a small nasal mask -that I can actually tolerate. Even then it took me sometime to get comfortable with.

Now, I swear by my CPAP machine. I actually tell people that it’s time for me to go home to bed so that I can breathe in fresh air all night long! It has become a regular part of my bedtime ritual, and I don’t go anywhere without it. Until I am given the green light that I no longer need to wear this lifesaving device, it will always be with me.

Still room for improvement
My sleep patterns have improved, and I no longer have to take naps to play catch up in the afternoons. I don’t have sore throats in the morning. My blood pressure is back in the healthy range, and I’ve joined Weight Watchers and am finally starting to shed some pounds. I’m feeling a lot better, health-wise.

Getting the word out
I’ve become a spokesperson for my family and friends, letting others know about what can happen if you do not get treated. I’m sure some of my loved one also have sleep apnea, and some them tell me they’re just scared to hear the results. That’s pretty frustrating to hear, considering how much I suffered before I was diagnosed and how much better I feel now.

I try to tell people, please stop what you are doing and make an appointment today! If you are afraid of doctors, don’t be. If your afrais to go to the sleep lab, take along a friend, your mom, your wife or husband, or just take along something comforting to have by your side. This is your life we are talking about, and I promise you, you will not regret it.

-Amy Petrik
Recovering Sleep Apnea Patient.


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