Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Sleep Disorders’ Category

How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is the involuntary obstruction of the airway causing difficulty breathing. Many individuals are not diagnosed and believe that they are simply horrible snorers. This is because it is difficult to test for sleep apnea in the typical doctor’s office visit because many of the symptoms must be observed while one sleeps and there are no blood tests for the disorder. 1

There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea is the least common of the two and is characterized by the brain failing to send the correct signals to the muscles involved in breathing causing individuals to not breathe for brief periods of time. Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common and is characterized by the airway being narrowed or blocked during sleep.

Many are affected by sleep apnea, and risk of experiencing symptoms increases as individuals get older. Of individuals over the age of 65, 1 in 10 will be affected by sleep apnea. 1

The best way to combat sleep apnea is through weight loss. Around 70 percent of those who have obstructive sleep apnea or snoring are overweight. 2 Weight loss helps with snoring alone, but has also been shown to assist in sleep apnea because of positioning and overall increased health.

Because of this chronic interruption in the sleep cycle, individuals are prone to experiencing all of the negative factors that occur from sleep deprivation. These factors include weight gain, consistent drowsiness and decreased alertness, which can lead to increased stress.

Positional therapy is the concept of training the body to sleep in a different position. Many individuals with sleep apnea report sleeping on their back, which only worsens the snoring. An effective way to combat this is by sewing a tennis ball to the back of your pajama shirt to make sleeping on your back very uncomfortable. Be sure to change your pillow to one suited for your new sleep position.

Surgery on the nasal passages is somewhat effective in treating snoring, however, because it is difficult to determine exactly where the obstruction in the airways occurs, it is not guaranteed to cure individuals of sleep apnea. 2

Oral appliances resemble athletic mouth guards and help push the jaw forward to aid in opening airways. 2 They have been proven to help stop snoring; however, sleep apnea can still occur and go untreated.

For those with moderate to severe sleep apnea, a positive airway pressure (PAP) device is suggested and most widely used. The device is a nose or facial mask that is connected to a machine by a flexible hose that allows constant air flow into the mouth and nose helping to keep airways open.

Sleep apnea can also be treated through elevating the head while still keeping the spine aligned. This can be accomplished through the use of an adjustable bed or inserting a firm pillow below the mattress.

Those with sleep apnea should exercise caution when using alcohol, sleeping pills or other depressants due to the risk of dying because the body cannot be fully aware of when the breathing passage is closed during sleep. Additionally, treating snoring can dilute the warning signs that sleep apnea may be present. Therefore, it is not required to snore in order to have sleep apnea. 2


1. National Heart Blood and Lung Institute

2. American Sleep Apnea Association

Jet Lag

Jet lag is a phenomenon that occurs when traveling east and west through time zone changes. 1 The effect causes individuals to lose sleep because of change in time schedule and sleep patterns. Jet lag only occurs when traveling east and west because when traveling north and south there are no time zone changes.

Effects of Jet Lag

Symptoms of jet lag can include confusion, daytime drowsiness, lack of alertness and trouble sleeping. Those who are extroverted, not easily stressed, exercise regularly and have a set day to day routine will likely suffer less from jet lag. 2 Traveling to a place multiple time zones away is hard on both the body and the mind, which is why being prepared for such strenuous travel is the best way to combat negative reaction.

Combating Jet Lag

Jet lag can possibly be avoided by taking simple steps to help you body and mind adjust to the new time zone:

  • Choose a flight that allows you to arrive in the early evening, and then go to bed around 10 p.m. This will help your body adjust to the new because you will most likely be tired from traveling as is and staying up for a short period of time should not be too difficult. 1
  • Plan to sit on the side of the plane opposite of the sun while you will be traveling.
  • Drink plenty of water to combat the tendency to become dehydrated due to the dryness of the cabin. 2
  • Practice stretching and walking around to increase circulation on long flights.
  • Bring earplugs or headphones to help block out noises and light that may disrupt adjusting to your destination’s time zone. You may also want to forgo the on-flight meal as it may fall at a strange time in your destination. 2
  • Be sure to ask for or bring your own pillow for the plane and hotel that may offer the comfort of home and aid in the adjustment process.
  • Prepare for jet lag. Five days before you leave, begin to preset your biological clock for your destination: if traveling east, go to bed and wake up earlier each day; if traveling west, go to bed and wake up later each day. 2
  • Change your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you get on your flight.
  • Upon arriving at your hotel set the thermostat at 65 degrees Fahrenheit and request to have a room on a high floor on the street side of the building away from the ice machine, elevators and staircase. 2
  • On your first day in your new location, you should avoid napping and push through the day. Go to bed early that night to ensure you get a full night’s sleep.
  • Do not stay indoors your first day in your new location. Daylight can help to regulate your biological clock and aid in your adjusting to the new environment. 1

Coping with Jet Lag

Taking sleeping pills or melatonin supplements can help with irregularities in sleep routine by helping you to be forcefully adjusted to your destination’s time zone. This method is proven effective, but can come with side effects of using drugs to induce sleep.

Jet lag is an uncomfortable, but manageable when the proper preparation is taken. By focusing on the concept that sleep is the most important thing and not pushing your body and mind to adjust you can rest easy and make the most of your trip.


1. National Sleep Foundation—Jet Lag and Sleep;

2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998. 151

Fighting Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disorder associated with joint and body pain and tenderness as well as nonrestorative sleep. 1 Fibromyalgia is not technically a sleep disorder, but is characterized by affected individuals’ extreme difficulty with insomnia and problems waking up. Those with fibromyalgia report being woken up by pain and sleep deprivation making their pain worse. Also, those affected tend to feel exhausted from day to day due to waking up throughout the night. While the cause and prevention methods for fibromyalgia are still relatively unknown, treatment is possible and can be successful in controlling fibromyalgia-related pain and complications.

The most disturbing aspect of fibromyalgia is the nonrestorative sleep that results in a nearly constant feeling of exhaustion. 1 Fatigue is brought on because the body and mind rarely have the ability to heal as they would during deep sleep. This exhaustion can lead to severe depression and inability to do simply daily tasks.


The best way to combat fibromyalgia is through improving quality of sleep. Sleep recommendations for those suffering from fibromyalgia are similar to those for insomnia. They include things like making the bedroom conducive to rest and avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon. It is also recommended to keep the bedroom cool at night as hotter temperatures tend to interrupt the sleep cycle. 2 Developing a sleep routine is the best way to insure better and longer sleep. Additionally, regular activity and exercise helps to relax the body when bedtime comes. Exercises proven to help with join problems are low intensity such as walking and underwater aerobics. 3 It has also been recommended that those with fibromyalgia buy a latex or memory foam mattress in order to reduce pressure points causing tossing and turning and joint pain. Additionally, mattresses and pillows that tend to release heat will help with continuous sleep throughout the night.

It is also recommended that individuals with fibromyalgia keep a sleep diary based on what actions they take to fall asleep, how often they wake up and overall tiredness during the day. It may also be helpful to become a part of a support group where they can share success and effective treatments in a positive environment. 2

There are certain medication prescribed to help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia; however, many are not entirely successful on their own. Muscle relaxants and pain killers have been used to combat joint pain. Antidepressants have also been used to improve sleep quality and overall mood. Overall, fibromyalgia weighs heavily on the sleeper whom it affects and can cause major disruptions in his or her life; however, with an effective combination of treatments, the individual can achieve optimal sleep.


1. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.

2. National Sleep Foundation—Pain and Sleep: What is Fibromyalgia?

3. WebMD—Fibromyalgia and Sleep;

Sleep Paralysis

Have you ever woken up unable to speak or move? If so, you are most likely part of the 40 percent of people who have sleep paralysis. 1

Sleep paralysis is a sleep disorder that causes the body’s ability to move and speak to be paralyzed while falling asleep or while waking up. The disorder occurs in both men and women and is most often discovered during the teen years. Sleep deprivation is typically the reason people develop sleep paralysis. Additionally, it is thought to run in families and be associated with narcolepsy.

There are two types of sleep paralysis: occurring when falling asleep (hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis) and occurring while waking up (hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis). 1 A “paralyzed” state occurs during REM sleep (when most vivid dreaming occurs), making the body unable to move. True sleep paralysis occurs in the stage between the sleeping and waking states. It is due to the body and mind shifting between REM sleep and NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement). If you wake up before the body shifts from REM (paralyzed sleep) to NREM sleep, you will likely experience sleep paralysis. 2

Sleep paralysis is commonly talked about in folklore and famous plays. While the concept and actualization of immobility and inability to speak is quite frightening, sleep paralysis does not usually last more than a minute at most. One individual recalled being in a state of sleep paralysis for 15 minutes after working a night shift five nights a week for eight months. 2 This further confirms that getting the adequate amount of sleep can benefit the quality of rest you have.

The first term for sleep paralysis was “nightmare” derived from the idea that a creature (called a mare) would come and sit on people in their sleep. Upon awakening, the “victim” would be terrified and unable to move as if something were sitting on his or her chest. This is referred to in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The disorder does not typically require treatment, but can be linked to other disorders that may be treated such as narcolepsy or bipolar disorder. Other treatment methods involve simply improving sleep hygiene by insuring you get the adequate amount of sleep, sleeping in a comfortable environment and watching what you eat or drink before bed.


1. WebMD—Sleep Paralysis;

2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.