Friday, March 27, 2009

One Anatomical Cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In describing obstructive sleep apnea, we often talk about the collapse of the airways during sleep. Now, the journal Archives of Otolaryngology reports that at least one of these anatomical changes has been imaged during actual apnea/hypoxia events. In a study reported in the February issue, researchers investigated changes to the soft palate experienced by sleepers to determine whether particular soft palate changes could be used to distinguish between obstructive sleep apnea sufferers and simple snorers.

The palate is the roof of the mouth. The front of the palate is the hard palate, and behind it is the soft palate, which extends back to the uvula (the fleshy, dangling protuberance at the back of the mouth. Using sleep videofluoroscopy to measure anatomical changes and polysomnography to identify apnea/hypoxia events, researchers found that the soft palate behaved very differently in sleep apnea sufferers than it did in simple snorers. Sleep apnea sufferers were more likely to see the soft palate expand backward during sleep. And this expansion was linked to instances of apnea and hypoxia.

The distinction between simple snorers and obstructive sleep apnea sufferers is a crucial part of delivering the right solution for those with sleep disordered breathing. Simple snoring is just a nuisance, but the dangers of sleep apnea make it a deadly condition that can dramatically reduce a person's life expectancy.

If you need help getting the best solution for your sleep apnea, schedule a sleep apnea consultation at the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Medicare Authorizes Funding for Home Sleep Studies

Medicare decisions about funding are important for everyone, not just for those on Medicare. Medicare's decisions about what to fund and what not to fund are seen as important evidence about what private insurance companies must fund as "necessary treatments" as opposed to elective procedures which insurance companies can opt against funding. When state regulating boards are considering decisions about coverage mandates for insurance companies, they look at Medicare decisions to decide what should be on the list.

Now, as part of its program to ensure that all sleep apnea sufferers over the age of 65 receive treatment for this serious condition that can lead to premature death, Medicare has decided to fund home sleep apnea tests, and prescriptions for sleep apnea treatments (including CPAP and oral appliance therapy) based on those home tests. This makes Medicare the first insurer to back diagnosis of sleep apnea using home test methods.

The use of home tests to diagnose sleep apnea is controversial among sleep scientists. Although some do not believe they are as accurate as lab-based tests, others argue that home sleep data, taken over a longer period of time under normal sleeping conditions, are actually more accurate. And recent research also supports the repeatability of home sleep apnea tests, which lends considerable credibility to their results.

Sleep apnea poses a serious health threat partly because it so often goes undiagnosed and untreated, we hope that this change will help people get the diagnosis and treatment necessary to avoid the dangers of sleep apnea. Home sleep studies come at a considerable cost saving to patients, costing about $200 with a $35 copay for Medicare, as opposed to a $1000 procedure with a $150 copay for laboratory sleep study. With reduced cost, people are more likely to get diagnosed. In addition, home sleep tests allow patients to be diagnosed more quickly than at sleep centers, which may have long waiting lists for sleep studies. We can only hope that more insurers will pick up this policy.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can help you get the best treatment for you. To learn more about your treatment options, schedule a sleep apnea treatment consultation at the Snoring & Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois today.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blame the Economy if You Want, but Americans Are Sleeping Less and Less

A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation shows that Americans are sleeping less than they used to. This is not a new thing, although some people attribute it to short-term economic woes. According to the poll, Americans are sleeping an average of 6.7 hours per night, down from 7 hours per night in 2001. In addition, the number of people reporting that they sleep less than 6 hours per weeknight has increased from 13 % to 20 %, and the number receiving 8 or more hours of sleep has decreased from 38 % to 28 %.

Although many, including those at the National Sleep Foundation, are reporting that economic stress may be behind increasing sleep woes, the truth is that the decrease in sleep is more likely due to lifestyle factors. Although a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association last year reported that 52 % of Americans reported losing sleep due to stress, if this were the major cause, we would expect to see a spike in lost sleep, but the numbers do not show that.

Instead, the numbers show a gradual loss of sleep, with average hours slept on weekday nights decreasing from 7.0 in 2001, to 6.9 in 2002, to 6.8 in 2005 to 6.7 in 2009. Therefore, it seems more likely that a number of lifestyle factors are contributing to the decreased sleep levels. This includes the growth of 24-7 activity levels facilitated by the Internet and by the expansion of internet activities and methods of access, such as Blackberries. In addition, more people are likely suffering from snoring either by themselves or their cosleeper. Or, worse, they may be suffering from the dangerous condition of obstructive sleep apnea.

If you find that your sleep has been cut dramatically in recent years, schedule a sleep health consultation with the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois today to learn about comprehensive treatment that include behavioral therapy, oral appliance therapy, or even Continuous Positive Airway Pressure treatment for sleep apnea, if necessary.

Friday, March 6, 2009

PureSleep: Benefits and Limits of Over-the-Counter Snoring Aids

PureSleep is a new anti-snoring device that is available Over-the-Counter without a prescription from a doctor. This device has been cleared by the FDA for the treatment of snoring. In order to secure FDA approval, a device must go through tests that indicate the device is "reasonably safe and effective" for its authorized usage. So FDA approval is some level of assurance for a device. In this case, you can be relatively sure that PureSleep is "reasonably safe and effective" for stopping snoring.

PureSleep is essentially a "boil-and-bite" mouthpiece like those commonly used by amateur athletes, much to their detriment. These mouthpieces provided limited protection for athletes, and no remedy for neuromuscular symptoms. It is probably safe to say that PureSleep has a similar relationship to true oral appliance therapy that boil-and-bite mouthpieces have to the Pure Power Mouthguard: in the same category, but nowhere near the same class.

Snoring is more than just an annoyance--it may be the sign of the potentially lethal condition, obstructive sleep apnea. About 30 % of snorers have sleep apnea, but not all obstructive sleep apnea sufferers snore. A snorer with sleep apnea may cure one problem and get better sleep at night. Since many people with sleep apnea are unaware of their condition, former snorers who are now not being awakened fully by their cosleeper's complaints about snoring, may never be aware of their problem.

If you are a snorer who is interested in this low-cost option for remedying the problem, you should first be evaluated for sleep apnea and only try PureSleep if you have been cleared of this dangerous condition. And do not stop CPAP or other therapy designed for the remedy of sleep apnea in favor of PureSleep, which has never been shown to affect sleep apnea.

If you would like to better understand your treatment options, schedule a snoring and sleep apnea consultation today at the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois, helping dentists and patients with sleep apnea solutions nationwide.