Damn, homie! Get up!
Roll over or do something! I cant sleep with you making all that noise. Sounds
like you about to suffocate or die or something. These were actually my words,
(minus a few explicative comments) to my roommate and the leading scorer on our
basketball team during my freshman year in junior college.
Dude snored so bad that my coach finally put him in his own
room, after moving him twice, so my other teammates could get some rest.
Everybody thought it was funny, unless you had to share a
room with him.
It was great once he got his own dorm room; we could sleep
and he could sleep in peace – or could he? None of us knew that we were
witnessing a potentially life threatening problem. A problem that often goes
unrecognized because its happening while the victim thinks he is resting. This
silent killer is called sleep apnea.
It is estimated that there are 18 million people in the
United States (US) who are living with diagnosed cases of sleep apnea with many
more undiagnosed. We all are familiar with National Football League legend and
hall of fame honoree Reggie White, Chad Pimp C Butler, and Christopher Big
Pun Rios. Each suffered from this often missed and under-treated disease. All
of them died way too young.
Maybe if Pimp C knew more about the deadly combination of
mixing his breath-slowing cough syrup with this disorder, he would still be
alive. Maybe if Big Pun understood the relationship between sleep apnea, being
overweight, and how they all relate to high blood pressure, heart disease,
diabetes, and strokes he would be alive. And maybe, just maybe, if the NFL did
not require linemen to average over 300 pounds or be financially penalized,
traded or fired for being underweight, Reggie White would still be around
Sleep apnea, in its simplest definition, means that a
persons breathing is interrupted while he is attempting to get some zs. Some individuals will not breathe for 20 to 30
seconds before coming up for air. The family and significant others describe
the sleep of these individuals with terms like, loud snoring, restlessness,
gasping for air, and sounds of choking. Most patients complain of daytime
fatigue and falling to sleep or dozing off while at work or driving.
The short term problems are obvious, and range from being
kicked out of bed by your lady, losing your job or killing yourself or another
driver. The questions Im often asked are, How does sleep apnea happen and Is
There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea
(OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common
form, and is caused by a blockage of the airways. This usually occurs when the
tissues of the neck and throat collapse during sleep. In CSA, there is no
airway blockage, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe during
There can also be a mixed picture where both Central and Obstructive
Sleep Apnea exist together. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
male genderbeing overweightbeing over the age of 40 having enlarged tonsilshaving a large neck size (greater than 17 in men and 16 in
women)having a family history of sleep apnea
When a person with sleep apnea stops breathing, the body has
a reflex that will wake them up. The patient does this all through the night
and rises the next morning feeling tired and sleepy. During these periods of
apnea (which means not breathing) the body is deprived of oxygen to the brain
The response is an increase in red blood cells, that carry
oxygen, and over time the blood gets thick and sluggish. If blood flow to the
brain or heart is not adequate, a heart attack or stroke can result.
To diagnosis sleep apnea, my patients are referred to an
ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and sent for a sleep study or
polysonogram (PSG). The ENT specialist will evaluate the patients for
correctable causes of sleep apnea. If the soft tissue in the throat is too
thick, the septum in the nose is deviated, or other facial abnormalities exist,
these can be surgically corrected.
The sleep study is designed to detect other causes of sleep
disorders, like restless legs syndrome, and to guide sleep specialist in
treatment regimens for the disease. A PSG involves going to a lab and sleeping.
Sounds easy, but with electrodes over your body and someone analyzing your
sleep, it may be a little uncomfortable.
Once the diagnosis is made, conservative treatment options
include weight loss, avoiding sedatives like codeine, alcohol, and sleeping
pills, smoking cessation (smoke increases airway swelling), and avoiding
sleeping on your back.
One of the most common forms of treatment includes wearing a
mask at night that will keep the airways open. This treatment is called Continuous
Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The mask covers the nose and mouth while you
sleep, and is connected to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air,
maintaining an open airway. Special dental devices can be designed to keep the
airway open as well as the surgical procedures mentioned earlier.
There is even a medication called Provigil that some
physicians use to treat the daytime fatigue and tiredness, but this is usually
in combination with CPAP and good sleep hygiene. Many people are resistant to
using their CPAP machine, and although cumbersome, it could very well save your
If you have any of the signs and symptoms above, see your
physician right away, improve your sleep, and get back in bed with the one you
And by the way, my former roommate wears his CPAP and is
Visit me at h2doc.com and shoot me a question at DrRani@h2doc.com. Its Tha Hip Hop Doc, they call me H2D – come
on now lets get Hip Hop Healthy. Peace,