Please Explain: Sleep Apnea

Friday, July 19, 2013

If you snore loudly and you wake up feeling tired even after a full night's sleep, you may have sleep apnea, is a potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. On this week’s Please Explain two sleep specialists talk about what sleep apnea is and what problems and complications it may cause. We’re joined by Dr. David M. Rapoport, Professor and Medical Director of NYU Sleep Disorders Center; and Dr. Susan Redline is Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Senior Physician, Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Physician, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.


David M. Rapoport and Susan Redline

Comments [22]

Elizabeth from Hanover

My husband was diagnosed with sleep apnea years ago. He did the sleep study. He wore the mask but had various problems with it. Two years ago I ceased to eat grain for health reasons. My husband also ceased eating grain. He has never worn the mask since. He no longer snores. He sleeps through the night. Hope this helps someone else.

Nov. 18 2013 10:09 PM

Has anyone ever heard about this? Been having severe back pain. They ruled everything out - MRI, nerve testing, X-ray, etc. they sent me to a sleep study because they thought I was pulling muscles in my back. Turns out that according to the study, I have severe sleep apnea. I'm always a bit tired but also always busy. I'm just not connecting the dots here. Any thoughts?

Jul. 29 2013 09:43 PM
joan kincey from UK

Sleep Apnoea,is very serious ,my son passed away in 2010,cpap prolonged his life,he used it for 4yrs,but through lack of awareness to this disorder,before he was diagnosed,the damage was done ,as i have learned since ,it can seriously affect other organs in the body,it really needs more recognition in the UK.

Jul. 21 2013 03:36 PM
Former Fatty from DC

BTW I lost 120 lbs and my sleep apnea actually got worse. So, that's a good thing to try but not always a magic bullet.

Jul. 21 2013 12:45 PM
CPAP lover from USA

I had 20 years of abnormal sleep studies but no results any doctor had ever seen. Not quite enough apneas to qualify for a CPAP but definitely bizarre results. I was completely exhausted, even with 10+ hours of sleep a night and 1-3 naps/day. I took thousands of dollars worth of drugs a month just to function enough to work. I was in excruciating pain all over my body, and had every test done with no luck. (Turns out 20+ years of not sleeping well will cause that.)

I finally had one last sleep study in which I did everything "wrong" to make it show up as OSA. Slept on my back, drank before, ate a really spicy huge meal before bed, and voila qualified for a CPAP. The first month was terrible, but on day 55 my body finally healed from years of terrible sleep. I woke up feeling like a new woman. I love it - take it camping, use it for naps, etc. If I miss even one night I feel terrible, everything from headaches to sinus pain to muscle soreness to fogginess.

The CPAP I have truly changed my world. I am no longer in excruciating pain, feeling 50 years older than I actually am. I can function at work and raising my child. It's hard to get used to at first but I highly recommend doing whatever it takes to get used to it long enough to give the therapy a chance.

My CPAP (BiPap actually) has software that allows me to see very detailed informaiton about every night's sleep. If I am curious it's basically like having an at home sleep study every night. There are people on the internet who will give you the software for free if you look in the right forums.

Jul. 21 2013 12:44 PM
Michael Lingard BBEC from Kent UK

The differential diagnosis between OSA and CSP is often missed. If a person is breathing normally during waking hours and takes measures to avoid snoring or mouth breathing during sleep there is usually little chance of apnic episodes with the exception of severe OSA patients. In other words a large percentage of sleep apnoea sufferers can avoid the use of CPAP machines if they are taught to normalize their breathing. One of the most effective training systems is the Buteyko Method developed by Dr Konstantin Buteyko and now taught by educators worldwide.

Jul. 20 2013 04:46 AM
Barnett Weiss from New York City

Please view the recent WHO video of Kevin Boyd, regarding the prevention and healing of childhood apnea, TMJ, malocclusion, ADD, ADHD. THis is vital. The more that is known about this research and the results of this mild intervention when needed and the results obtained, perhaps we can get back to real health. THERE WAS NO MALOCCLUSION OR Serious breathing issues in children before so called modern baby feeding and soft diets. A study was posted By the Buteyko Institute for Breathing and Health of Australia this past year of over 11,000 persons with Apnea who successfully completed a course in learning to address their apnea with the Buteyko Approach. The results were beyond anything seen previously. Not only did most reduce or eliminate their apnea, their overall health and physical performance in ALL areas improved significantly

Jul. 20 2013 01:13 AM
Dr. Barry Raphael from Clifton, NJ

Along with weight, there are two other risk factors for Sleep Apnea that are largely ignored (but alluded to on this great episode): 1) The shape of the face and 2) The DYNAMICS of breathing. To keep it brief, both factors take shape in early childhood. As such, more attention HAS to be paid to how the child's face grows, and how breathing and oral posture habits take hold early on. Each can have a potentiating effect on the other. For instance, swollen tonsils lead to open mouth posture leads to distortion of the jaws bones leads to narrowing of the airway leads to easy collapsibility leads to sleep disordered breathing leads to apnea. That's why just taking out tonsils is often too little too late. If the shape of the face, or the mode of breathing is not also addressed, then the cycle will go on. As an orthodontist involved in preventive sleep medicine, I am saying that sleep apnea begins in childhood. And it IS preventable.....THEN.

Jul. 19 2013 11:15 PM
Dianne from Huntington, NY

People should know that after being diagnosed with sleep apnea, they may be treated effectively by some dentists who have studied this specialty. They design a fitted appliance (retainer like devise) to be worn during sleep. It may not work for everyone but it has been proven effective for some and is easy to adapt to.

Jul. 19 2013 02:48 PM
Rebecca from Jersey

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and after having gone through the studies and the CPAP business, I came to the conclusion that this was ridiculous. The studies were uncomfortable and the CPAP was was not easy to use and I felt like an alien. So, I decided to lose weight. I did and I haven't had to use a CPAP since. I was struck by the fact that my doctor did'nt bring up the weight factor when I was undergoing the CPAP fitting and when I brought it up, he acted as if he didn't want to address that issue. I definitely got the impression he was making quite the business from selling the machine and all the attachments.

Jul. 19 2013 01:59 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

Sleep studies do NOT "give a good picture" of your sleep. They stick you in a strange place, they put a bunch of wires on you, they wake you up over and over, and they are arrogant enough to believe that they get "a good picture of how you sleep." TOTALLY BOGUS.

The guest is WRONG about sleep studies.

Jul. 19 2013 01:52 PM
Hugh from UWS

I've heard that there are exercises that may help -- possibly by toning the throat muscles. Can your guests comment?

Jul. 19 2013 01:50 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

@Bill from Brooklyn - YES - keep going to doctors -- DO NOT RELY ON THE SLEEP STUDY (see my other post).

Jul. 19 2013 01:49 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

I mostly use the CPAP, and I also have the dental device. I really like having both. Sometimes, for no obvious reason, I don't tolerate the CPAP, and on those nights, I switch to the dental device.

Jul. 19 2013 01:48 PM
Rachel Lussier from Stamford, CT

Question for experts: Can severe sleep apnea contribute memory loss in the elderly?

Jul. 19 2013 01:48 PM

Are there good alternatives to a CPAP?

Jul. 19 2013 01:45 PM
DogOfTears from NYC

You describe the collapse of muscles in the throat - are there effective exercises that can help?

Jul. 19 2013 01:38 PM
Bill from Brooklyn

I've always had trouble with sleep and it's horrible. Two sleep studies showed many "arousals" throughout my sleep, but I was not diagnosed with Apnea. Historically, I have not been a big snorer or made strange breathing sounds (according to partners) but lately I sometimes wake myself up with snoring, so that seems to have changed over time.

Is it possible that I do have Apnea even though past studies showed that I don't?

Jul. 19 2013 01:34 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

Please please please tell people that if they get a sleep study which says they don't have a problem, DON'T BELIEVE IT. I suffered for years because I had two different sleep studies that said I was fine, when I knew I wasn't. Happily, I got a recommendation for a doctor who looked at the sleep studies and said, "The people who interpreted this are idiots. You're telling me you can't breathe, and you have symptoms that you're telling me about, so let's get you a CPAP."

It's also not just apnea -- snoring reducing the oxygen to your system. It caused me years of fatigue and depression.


Go from doctor to doctor until you get a CPAP or other device to help you sleep.

Jul. 19 2013 01:32 PM
Gary from Port Washington, NY

I am thin, yet suffer with sleep apnea; there is a misconception that only overweight people suffer. Some one recommended I vist an ENT specialist and have surgery. Is there an operation that can eliminate sleep apnea. Are there any supplements or medicatons that I could use to prevent it. How deadly and dangerous is it. Does sleeping on your side help? Thank you.

Jul. 19 2013 01:31 PM
dhudiburg from

If your friend is having clear trouble breathing, is overweight, and has been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, he is very unlikely to be 'recovered.' I would encourage him to get a (another) sleep study to see what is really going on.

Jul. 19 2013 01:01 PM

My friend recovered* from sleep apnea (diagnosed). Now he has high blood pressure, and says that since it was caused by sleep apnea, losing weight will not help his blood pressure. is this possible?

His breathing is shallow and fast which also worries me.
*recovered by working out for 4 hours a day for about 5 months; Weight loss was not significant)

Jul. 19 2013 12:31 PM

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