Deep Sleep: Sleep Apnea

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Each Thursday in March, Alice Park, Time Magazine staff writer who covers health and medicine, talks about sleep. Today's topic: sleep apnea.


Alice Park

Comments [34]

dr pucci in oradell nj from oradell, nj

A number of the callers inquired about a 'gut/sleep' connection in one form or another and this issue was not adequately addressed. The statement was made that there are two kinds of sleep apnea ---one essentially a symptom of poor health or structural defect, the other a symptom of failure of the brain to properly signal.

The gut is often called The Second Brain for good reason.....and you can bet that if you have sleep apnea problems AND gut health problems, they are symptomatic of a neurological problem.

Find a good doctor ---not one who just fits you for a machine or an orthodontic device. but one who can work with the big picture

Mar. 15 2012 02:50 PM
Charles N. from Essex County, NJ

The program did not cover the dental appliance option enough. One such device, the Thorton Adjustable Positioner (TAP), has had good success giving relief to sufferors of obstructive sleep apnea. See website The appliance holds the lower jaw forward, preventing the tongue and the soft tissue of the throat from collapsing into the airway. Since my partner has been using the TAP, we are both sleeping better!

Mar. 15 2012 11:27 AM

My partner, who exhibits the symptoms of sleep apnea, has also suffered from intense migraine headaches for years. He generally wakes up with them which suggests a connection with the apnea. About six weeks ago he began a simple regimen of throat exercises. After a few weeks of exercise he now breathes more clearly at night, snores much less, and the regularity of his migraines has been reduced dramatically. He is still taking a drug cocktail prescribed by his neurologist for the migraines. One of the drugs has a side effect of weight gain which would seemingly worsen the apnea and increase the instance of migraine (possibly caused by oxygen starved arteries in the brain). Anyone else see these connections?

Mar. 15 2012 11:23 AM
Nicholas Lenn, M.D. from Professor Emeritus, Pediatric Neurology, Stony Brook Univers

Your guest said that the causes of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children are similar to adults. This is not correct: the major causes of OSA in children are enlarged tonsils and adenoids, a readily treatable problem, neuromuscular diseases and cranio-facial malformations, none of which are prominent in adults. She also said that understanding is just beginning, but for children the first cause was well known before 1966. For adults, early, accurate descriptions of OSA are found in Shakespeare (Falstaff) and Dickens (the "boy" in Pickwick Papers), although neither causes or treatments seem to have been known then.

Mar. 15 2012 11:15 AM
The Truth from Becky

Thanks Kate, we do have insurance, so I will search for a Doc now, thanks.

Mar. 15 2012 11:14 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

My fabulous pulmonologist who gave me the machine (CPAP): Jay Berland in Lake Success on Long Island

My fabulous dentist who gave me the dental appliance:Peterson (can't remember his first name) in Oceanside, Long Island

Mar. 15 2012 11:14 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

@The Truth from Becky - I have health insurance. I went for a sleep study, then (as I said above), when they said I was OK, I suffered until I found a pulmonologist (based on a friend's recommendation) who prescribed the CPAP. My insurance paid most of it, but I think it was about $1,200. If you don't have insurance, just keep trying to find out if there's a clinic that will help you. You have to shop for good doctors. I don't know if I'm allowed to give my doctor's name on here. I'll do it in a separate post in case they delete it.

Mar. 15 2012 11:12 AM
Hayyim from Manhattan

I suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and could not tolerate the CPAP machine. I found tremendous relief from a new treatment called Provent. It consists of two small round adhesives (like the round bandaids) with a plastic piece in the center. That plastic is a vent which allows you to inhale normally, but reduces the amount you exhale. That builds up air pressure, so intead of positive air pressure as with the machine it's passive air pressure that keeps air passages open.

At this time, studies have established that it is effective, but like CPAP it works for some people and not for others. There does not seem to be any correlation between the people CPAP works for and the people that Provent works for.

Unfortunately, there's no generic (it's from Ventus Medical Inc.), quite expensive, and not covered by health insurance. I'm hoping that greater awareness will lead health insurance companies to recognize it as a standard treatment that should be covered.

Mar. 15 2012 11:05 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Children don't smoke, but what about 2nd-hand smoke? It's been shown to increase the likelihood of crib death--could sleep apnea be part of the mechanism of this association?

Mar. 15 2012 11:03 AM
gloria from nyc

@Becky: You see a sleep specialist (sometimes a cardiologist), they send you for a sleep study, and then the doctor will prescribe the machine. Some health insurance companies use a chip to monitor use in order to cover it.

Mar. 15 2012 10:58 AM
david from upper west side

I have a cpap and the mask falls off all the time. Any tips or devices to help it stay on?

Mar. 15 2012 10:58 AM
Doreen from Queens

Not to be promoting one product but Breath Right nose strips really help my boyfriend a lot. They work by opening up the nasal passages - but you have to make sure you get the right ones - they have different types and its worth trying the different ones to see which ones 'fit right'. Hope this helps someone else.

On babies - our pediatrician told us that under 6 months babies only breath through their noses not their mouths - that's why you really need to keep their noses clear if they get stuffed up. Was wondering if this is why the speaker keeps saying babies of 6 months and older..

Mar. 15 2012 10:57 AM

My son had sleep apnea. It was due to his adenoids that were so big they were restricting his breathing. My husband and I are both small and so is he. Once his adenoids and tonsils were removed when he was four, he gained 10 pounds in three months.

I don't have sleep apnea, but I did break my nose when I was in my 20s when I played women's rugby. I broke it again in Martial Arts a year ago (during a drill where we were supposed to use "light touch" haha). When the ENT fixed my nose, my sleep immediately improved.

As for the mother who called in, there is a homeopathic lactation consultant who is finding anecdotal evidence that there may be a relationship between gut health and apnea. I'm sure it will take a lot of work to really investigate this theory, but I do believe it should be investigated. In any case, based on my son's history, it really doesn't hurt to see a pediatric ENT to really get to the bottom of the apnea.

Mar. 15 2012 10:57 AM

both my parents have sleep apnea. Neither is overweight. Is sleep apnea genetic?

Mar. 15 2012 10:57 AM

there are people who believe that our poor nutrition makes us structurally vulnerable (malformed) through poor development so that we are not able to form a vacuum (tongue-roof of mouth) that a properly made face and head forms so that mouth breathing is inevitable.

There's a dentist associated with the Weston A Price Foundation - who talks about what to do for this. Sorry I don't remember his name but on the website just search apnea. (More natural) Also there was a man called George Catlin who observed native tribes from north to south poles 9and painted them) - he has plenty to say about how non-natives sleep.

The mask is forced air and unnatural.

Mar. 15 2012 10:56 AM
Jeff from Manhattan

Tell the guy who called about the mask that there are "nasal pillows" that are much more comfortable than the mask over nose and mouth. Two soft plastic pieces that fit into the nostrils; you're still wearing the straps, but it's a lot easier for me to sleep with than the mask. I sleep on my side, which was very difficult with the nose/mouth "fighter pilot" mask.

Mar. 15 2012 10:56 AM
kate from NJ

My 4 month old snores, always has, but does not have sleep apnea. Is it possible to stop him from snoring in order to keep him from having the developmental issues?

Mar. 15 2012 10:55 AM

Saw this article recently

Mar. 15 2012 10:55 AM
david from the upper west side from upper west side

I have a mask which took me a while to find the right one and when it stays on it works well. It falls off most nights. Any devices or ways to help it stay on better?

Mar. 15 2012 10:54 AM
Megan from Brooklyn

My husband's father died in a hospital after removing his sleep apnea mask. I then forced my husband to lose weight to address his sleep apnea and he now no longer snores and looks and feels great. I feel that it is vital that weight be the target for anyone with obstructive sleep apnea, as hard as it is to address.

Mar. 15 2012 10:54 AM
vince from sparkill

i had the surgery to remove my uvula. i also had the follow up surgery to shrink the back of my tongue. the uvula surgery was excruciatingly painful BUT it seems to have worked. 8 years later and i have not had any symptoms since. however, to this day i often feel like i can choke very easily even from a drink of water.

Mar. 15 2012 10:54 AM
Kate from Wash Heights

Brian - the dental apparatus is great. I can't use it every night for long, but I alternate with the machine. I am disappointed that she hasn't mentioned the dental apparatus. You have to get it from a dentist. It holds your jaw forward.

Also - the guy who is calling doesn't have a good machine. The new ones don't cover your mouth. Mine only is on my nose and it is really not that uncomfortable. Much more comfortable than not being able to breathe!

Mar. 15 2012 10:53 AM

Hi Brian, Would your guest speak to the effectiveness of dental devices on apnea? Thanks! Gloria

Mar. 15 2012 10:53 AM
GregOry from Park Slope

My dad, a lifetime MEGA-snorer, got an anti-snoring pillow and apparently it works like a charm, my mom sleeps like a babe now!

Mar. 15 2012 10:52 AM
Asher from Upper West Side

Does apnea occur only in "back" sleeping?

Mar. 15 2012 10:52 AM
Jeff from North NJ


Mar. 15 2012 10:51 AM
The Truth from Becky

HS & Kate, How much is this CPAP machine and where do you get it?

Mar. 15 2012 10:51 AM
gloria from nyc

I've been dealing with sleep apnea and lost a significant amount of weight, but was then told I likely (also) had issues with soft palate tissue. I understand this to also be part of the obstructive disorder; my doctor told me that weight is only one of the ways in which breathing can be disrupted.

Mar. 15 2012 10:50 AM
John from NJ

I had a sleep test and been diagnosed with mild to moderate apnea. My Dr prescribed a night guard as they don't think my condition is bad enough to use an apnea mask. Since I snore with my mouth shut, I wonder if this device is worth using?

Mar. 15 2012 10:50 AM

PLEEEEEEEEASE talk about the non obstructive kind of sleep apnea. I'm pretty sure that I have it.

Mar. 15 2012 10:50 AM

Can post nasal drip cause the same sensation of waking up either coughing or choking like in sleep apnea?

Mar. 15 2012 10:50 AM
The Truth from Becky

Can people die from this? What are the prolonged effects?

Mar. 15 2012 10:48 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

I went to have a sleep study done 15 years ago, and although I knew I snored badly, and I would wake up at night because I couldn't breathe, and I'd get up to go to the bathroom twice a night (which is a sign of a sleeping problem and has nothing to do with having to go to the bathroom), and I used 7 pillows at night to try desperately to get my body in a position to breathe properly, they looked at their study and said, "You're fine." So I suffered for YEARS with fatigue and depression.

A few years ago, I got another sleep study and once again, they said, "You're fine."'

A couple of years later, I went to another doctor and showed him the studies. He's the one who actually asked me, "Do you experience yourself as having trouble breathing at night?" and "Do you get up to go to the bathroom every night?" and "How many pillows do you use?" and told me that of course I needed intervention.

Now I use a CPAP and sometimes I use a dental apparatus and they are both great.

The machine takes a while to get used to but the sleeping is worth it!

Mar. 15 2012 10:48 AM

I have sleep apnea — went to a sleep lab, diagnosed, the whole nine yards. At the lab, I slept as I normally do for a couple of hours -- turned out I was waking up over 20 times every hour. 20 times. Then I was put on what is called a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure). I went down to 5 or 7 times per hour. A normal person wakes up about 3 times per hour.

Mar. 15 2012 10:47 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.