Alternative therapies for treating your sleep apnea

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

The most common approaches for treating all sleep health problems include:

  • Prescriptive devices 
  • Surgical
  • Pharmaceutical 
  • Behavioral

All of these, of course, require you to undergo diagnostic observation by a sleep specialist in order to receive your differential diagnosis and to start treatment.

For sleep-breathing disorders—obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in particular—some of the treatment options listed here aren’t available.

Prescriptive devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) constitute the lion’s share of approaches for most sleep apnea concerns. However, those who may not be able to tolerate positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy aren’t stuck without options.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that requires therapeutic assistance from a host of medical professionals (primary care physicians, pulmonologists, allergy specialists, and dentists); together, they can offer a number of avenues for treatment to help patients recover from dangerous sleep breathing patterns that will otherwise negatively impact their health directly over the roughly one third of their lives spent in sleep.

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If it's not sleep apnea, what is it?

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Sometimes people have a problem with breathing during sleep that is not diagnosed as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) after they've had a sleep study.

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is a form of obstructive breathing during sleep which only yields a partial blockage of the airway and does not result in low oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

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Marijuana: Is it an effective sleep aid?

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Since Washington state legalized marijuana in November 2012, a key question in the field of sleep health has been raised repeatedly: 

Can marijuana help us sleep better? 

People with insomnia say that it does. However, the research is limited, though we do know a few things about marijuana and its impact on sleep.

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That evening drag: the problem of smoking and sleep apnea

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Smokers often believe that having a bedtime cigarette helps them to sleep better. 

Nicotine does seem to relax the body in certain ways to make this theory believable. 

However, smoking does more harm than good when it comes to sleep health. 

If you consider how smoking also leads to chronic breathing concerns and myriad diseases and health problems, it seems like the brief relaxation benefit of a quick puff (or vape) at bedtime may not be worth  the risk.

Check out these 3 reasons why smoking creates sleep problems, especially as they relate to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

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Are common medications interrupting your sleep?

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

The reasons we might experience insomnia or sleep fragmentation are varied.

Emotional stress, pain, sleep disorders, medical conditions, and poor sleep hygiene are the most talked about root causes for sleeplessness.

But what about your prescriptions? Might they be contributing to poor sleep? 

Yes. As a matter of fact, there are several common classes of drugs that can cause insomnia. Below, we discuss ten of them.

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When is oxygen therapy performed in a sleep lab?

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

For many patients facing the challenges of using some form of positive airway pressure (PAP) to treat their sleep breathing disorders, the question is often asked: 

"Why not just use oxygen at night?"

After all, one major problem with untreated sleep apnea is the precipitous drop in oxygen levels in the blood, known as hypoxia

However, when it comes to obstructive breathing patterns, O2 therapy is not the go-to treatment (for a reason). But that doesn't preclude its use in the sleep lab for certain patients during their studies.

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COPD: Breathless and sleepless at the same time

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is now considered by the Centers for Disease Control to be the fourth leading cause of death in the US. 

The acronym, COPD, refers to 2 common breathing disorders: chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Both conditions make it difficult to breathe during the day while you are awake.

At bedtime, COPD can create nearly impossible conditions for getting adequate sleep. 

It can also worsen other preexisting (or undetected) sleep disorders.

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5 things you need to know: Central Apnea & ASV therapy

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

If you've never heard of central sleep apnea and don't know what ASV is, don't worry.

Neither are common, but a lot of discussion has centered on both central sleep apnea and ASV in the last year because of safety concerns.

Check out our primer on these specialty sleep health topics.  

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FAST FACTS: How to make sense of your sleep study: AHI versus RDI

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

If you've ever had a sleep study and gone over the results with your sleep specialist, you may have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of acronyms used when measuring certain key aspects of your sleep. 

All of them matter, to be sure. However, there are two which are of particular interest for those who have sleep breathing disorders. 

AHI and RDI both measure the quality of your breathing during sleep, but they technically count on different aspects of breathing in order to arrive at their numbers. 

So what is the difference between AHI and RDI?

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How to exercise your way to sleep apnea relief

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Most people understand that both obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—a mechanical dysfunction of breathing during sleepand central sleep apnea (CSA)a neurological dysfunction of breathing during sleephave long-term negative impacts on health.

What we don't always think about is how having sleep apnea may impair us during the day, when we're awake

A common side effect of sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), which may be the most commonly understood adverse effect of having this sleep-breathing disorder.

However, poor breathing during sleep can also lead to poor breathing during exercise during the day.

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