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Sleep Apnea --- Causes and Cures

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UCLA Center for Sleep Research

Mayo Clinic Snoring Research

Snorers Cost Spouses 2 Years of Lost Sleep
July 14, 2012, last updated August 25, 2018
By Alison Turner,  Featured Columnist

5. Exercise in the Day for Better Sleep at Night.  We can all
list hundreds of reasons why we are supposed to exercise,
and here's one more to add to the list: researchers from
Penn State find that exercising reduces our risk for sleep
apnea.  Maybe the lure of a good night's rest will finally get
us to the gym.

In 2008, experts from the Penn State University College of
Medicine, led by Dr. Alexandros Vgontzas with the
Department of Psychiatry,  conducted a study in response
to their observation that sleep apnea and metabolic
abnormalities are “independent predictors of excessive
daytime sleepiness,” and that exercise is “beneficial” for
both apnea and metabolic abnormalities.  

The team looked at the daytime sleepiness and levels of
activity via questionnaire in over 1,100 patients who
suffered symptoms consistent with sleep apnea.  

What did they find? The study discovered that, particularly
in men, a lack of regular exercise predicted “severe
sleepiness,” and that a lack of regular exercise was
associated with more severe sleep apnea.  The team
recommends that physical exercise be part of a “thorough
evaluation” in patients with sleep apnea.

We all know how important good sleep is -- now we know
that we might have to work for it.  

Depression and Sleep Apnea: A Tough Combo  

If you have ever been depressed, or know someone who
you think might suffer from depression, you know that
symptoms can reach into every part of the day.  Recent
research reports, unfortunately, that depression may also
influence our nights.

In 2012, a team of researchers with the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, including A. Wheaton with
the Division of Adult and Community Health,  set out to
determine the relationship between sleep disordered
breathing and depression.  Data was drawn from nearly
10,000 adults who participated in the National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey between the years of 2005
and 2008.  

Surprisingly, the survey showed that 6% of men and 3.1%
of women reported physician-diagnosed apnea, while over
37% of men and 22% of women reported frequent
snoring, and 7% of men and 4% of men suffered from
snorted or stopped breathing.  

And watch out if you "snort" when you sleep. While simple,
ordinary snoring was not associated with symptoms of
depression, snorting and/or stopped breathing was
“strongly associated with probably major depression” in
both sexes.  
[Update: The reason that snorting or stopping
breathing affects your risk for depression is not known,
although deprivation of oxygen to the brain, as happens
when you are sleep-deprived fro long periods of time, has
been linked to depression.]

Note that snorting and/or stopped breathing is one of the
major symptoms of sleep apnea, as listed in the

If daytime tiredness or other symptoms of sleep apnea (see
introduction) seem to fall particularly heavily on top of your
or a loved one's depression, consider talking to your
physician about sleep apnea.  

ED, Sleep Apnea and Age:  Not an Ideal Retirement.  

We all have visions of what retirement will be.  For most of
us, these visions do not include erectile dysfunction or
problems with sleep -- unfortunately, Swiss researchers
have recently found that these two conditions may go hand
in hand as we age. (Read more about
foods and other
natural remedies for erectile dysfunction.)

In 2009, experts from several major cities in Switzerland,
including Dr. Thomas Muenzer in Geriatrics at the University
Hospital in Bern,  reported on one of the many reasons
most of us do not want obstructive sleep apnea for
ourselves or our loved ones: obstructive sleep apnea may
induce erectile dysfunction and reduce overall sexual
satisfaction in men.  

The Swiss experts wanted to see how scared of this we all
should be.  Their research included data from 116 men
between roughly between the ages of 40 and 65 with sleep
apnea, and 42 men without sleep apnea in the same age
category.  Patients recorded their erectile function, desire,
and frequency of sexual activity for a time period of three
months.   Numbers showed that obstructive sleep apnea
was “significantly associated with erectile problems [and]
decreased overall sexual satisfaction.”

If you or your loved one has sleep apnea, but you have let
it slip thinking that it's "not such a big deal," perhaps the
above study will convince you to being sleep apnea
treatment.  The happiness of your middle age years and
beyond may be at stake.

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea: Another Dangerous Duo.  
Sometimes alcohol, especially in excessive quantities, puts
us to sleep faster than a lecture on public policy in the
1800s; other times, according to research conducted by
Japanese experts in 2010, alcohol may disrupt our sleep
more than it encourages it.

In 2010, large team of researchers in Japan, led by
Renzche Cui with the Department of Social and
Environmental Medicine at Osaka University,  analyzed how
alcohol consumption influenced sleep-disordered breathing
in over 3,000 women between the ages of 30 and 69.  
Their work showed that “alcohol consumption was
associated with higher prevalence of sleep-disordered
breathing among Japanese women.”

We already know what too much alcohol can do to our
heads and stomachs in the morning after: now we also
have to consider what too much alcohol can do to our long-
term sleep patterns.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment (CPAP)
for Sleep Apnea.

Some patients of sleep apnea may make all of the "right"
life choices that have been recommended above, yet still
suffer from the condition.  Luckily, there is another option:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment (CPAP).  
CPAP treatment involves a machine with a mask that fits
over the patient's nose and mouth, a tube that connects
the mask to the machine, and a motor that blows air into
this tube while the patient sleeps.  

Now, Spanish researchers have discovered that CPAP
treatment may not only help patients with sleep apnea, but
could also help reduce those patients' risk for stroke.

In 2009, a large team of experts from various Spanish
institutes, including Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez-Garcia with
the Neurology Unit at the Hospital General de Requena in
Valencia, Spain,  studied how Continuous Positive Airway
Pressure Treatment (CPAP) affected mortality in patients
with stroke and obstructive sleep apnea.  

After performing a sleep study on 166 patients presented
to the team with ischemic stroke, CPAP treatment was
offered to moderate to severe cases.  Five years later,
analysis of the same patients showed that patients who did
not tolerate CPAP had “an increase adjusted risk of
mortality,” when compared to patients who had tolerated

The team concludes that “long-term CPAP treatment in
moderate to severe [obstructive sleep apnea] and ischemic
stroke is associated with a reduction in excess risk of

While your CPAP machine may not seem like a sexy thing to
keep around at night, in the end it may prove sexier than
stroke or risk of mortality.

Pregnancy and Sleep Apnea: Proceed With Caution.  

Pregnancy is uncomfortable for many reasons.  There's
pain, cravings, weight gain, snoring and all sorts of other
strange bodily changes.  Experts from Quebec now warn
that some of these effects from pregnancy are not to be
taken lightly.  Snoring in pregnant women, for example, or
other symptoms of sleep apnea, may be a predictor of
hypertension. (Read more about
pregnancy and high blood

In 2009, researchers from McGill University and the Santa
Cabrini Hospital in Montreal, including K. Champagne with
the Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit at
the first,   noted that hypertension develops in 10% of
pregnancies, and that snoring is a “newly identified risk
factor” for hypertension during pregnancy (which is also
known as “gestational hypertension).

Furthermore, the team reports, obstructive sleep apnea is a
risk factor for hypertension in people who are not
pregnant.  Accordingly, they examined the connection
between hypertension, sleep apnea, and pregnancy.  

The frequency and/or prevalence of obstructive sleep
apnea  was recorded in 17 pregnant females with
hypertension and 33 without hypertension.  Results
revealed that sleep apnea intensity and frequency in
women with gestational hypertension were greater than in
pregnant women without hypertension, so that  
“gestational hypertension appears to be strongly
associated” with obstructive sleep apnea.

High blood pressure is not something a pregnant woman
wants on her long list of pregnancy-problems.  If you or
your partner is pregnant and struggles with breathing
during sleep, consider asking your physician about sleep
apnea and appropriate treatments.

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Snoring Linked to Stroke

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Americans Are Chronically Sleep Deprived- 2008 Study
Owning a Cat Cuts Stroke Risk by 40%
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