Snore No More
Julian Whitaker, MD
Around my house I held the snoring record hands down: I snored at an Olympic-caliber volume. My stepson could hear me in his bedroom, and he sleeps downstairs. Although it affected everyone within a 25-yard radius, my snoring never bothered me, and I certainly wasn’t losing any sleep over it. Or so I thought.
Snoring is more than just a nuisance. It’s a symptom of a far more serious problem. When you snore, the soft tissues in the back of your throat rattle around, partially blocking the airway. This blockage frequently becomes complete, and breathing stops altogether until oxygen deprivation arouses you enough to start breathing again. These episodes of breathing cessation are called sleep apnea, and apart from cutting off your oxygen supply, they wreak havoc with your sleep.
Sleep Apnea Deprives You of REM Sleep
When you fall asleep, you go through several stages of sleep until you reach the deepest, most rejuvenating level called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It is during REM sleep that the brain unwinds and the muscles completely relax. This is when the soft tissues in the throat collapse and apnea episodes occur. Although you may not be conscious of it, you move out of this deepest and most essential stage of sleep into lighter, less restorative stages each time you are forced to catch your breath. Consequently, if you have sleep apnea, it’s virtually impossible for you to get enough restful sleep, even if you sleep eight hours a night.
My wife was very concerned. She had gotten used to my noisy snoring, but those episodes when I stopped breathing really worried her. So I finally was tested for sleep apnea. I checked into the sleep lab at 6:00 one evening and was hooked up to sleep monitors. I fell asleep, but according to the monitors, I never got any REM sleep, for in a period of one hour I had 69 attacks of apnea!
Get Treatment, and Get It Fast
I am now being treated with continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. I wear a small mask over my nose to bed that gently blows pressurized air into my airway to prevent the soft tissues from collapsing. Thanks to this simple device, I literally sleep like a baby: no snoring, no tossing and turning, no starting and snorting to catch my breath. Instead, I quickly fall asleep and drift into and out of all the stages of sleep, including REM, until I wake up in the morning, completely refreshed.
I now know that I have been sleep deprived for almost a decade. In retrospect, I had forgotten what it felt like to be truly rested. I cannot describe to you how much more energy I have now that I am getting the rejuvenating benefits of sleep. Instead of feeling 20 years older than I am, I feel 20 years younger—and I feel like I am growing younger every day.
- The bottom line here is that if you snore, you probably have sleep apnea, and if you have apnea, you are sleep deprived. Get tested and treated.
- For more information on Whitaker Wellness’ treatment of sleep apnea, call (866) 944-8253.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2001. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.