A Sleeping Giant

Under-diagnosed sleep problems can cause other health issues By Dr. Ron Perkins

Under-diagnosed Sleep Problems Can Cause Other Health Issues

By Dr. Ron Perkins

What is one of the most overlooked and under-diagnosed health problems today? It’s a sleep disorder that includes sleep apnea and non-apnea sleep disordered breathing. The most common, non-apnea sleep disordered breathing, called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, is very insidious and not often recognized by health professionals.

When this happens, Interruptions in sleep are caused by an airway obstruction created by the relaxed tongue falling back into the airway, even for just a few seconds, resulting in a stress reaction. This stress reaction is caused when the brain senses a limitation of the airflow and sends a message to the adrenal glands to give the body a dose of stress hormones. The heart and the body are shocked, and most people clinch or grind their teeth. Stress hormones also result in excess inflammation in every cell of the body, which can cause numerous symptoms. Severe sleep apnea, which is the worst sleep disorder, results in reduced oxygen to the entire body, along with inflammation, fibromyalgia, and other side effects. Many patients with sleep apnea are diagnosed by a sleep partner who notices that their partner has stopped breathing.

Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are almost always inherited, so look at your family history for heart attacks (especially during sleep), diabetes, hypertension, thyroid problems, GERD, snoring, insomnia, severe headaches, TMJ (jaw joint problems), and especially any family history of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “Brain fog,” or cognitive dysfunction, is an important sign for anyone having a sleep disorder. Brain fog is caused by lack of clearing of the brain waste product (amyloid protein) across the blood/brain barrier, which is supposed to happen during deep sleep. People with sleep disorders do not get enough deep sleep, so those amyloid protein deposits can build up in the brain over a lifetime.

Nervousness, anxiety, ear pain, ringing or fullness, TMJ or jaw joint problems, headaches and migraines, and clenching or grinding of the teeth during sleep are all caused by the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

Treating these sleep disorders can drastically improve your health and change your life. Severe obstructive sleep apnea can be treated by CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines. People unable to wear CPAP machines would need to be treated with oral appliances which gently hold the tongue forward so it will no longer fall back into the airway. Those patients with TMD, headaches, and migraines, need to be treated with custom TMJ balanced oral appliances for the best results.

If you think you might suffer from issues like this, consider reaching out to a health professional who specializes in TMJ, headaches, or other sleep disorders. It might just be one of the best things you can do for your health. 

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