In a nutshell…Sleep Apnoea

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a relatively common sleep disorder that is characterized by prolonged breathing pauses. While asleep, the individual suffering of Sleep Apnea repeatedly stops breathing for the duration of at least 10 seconds, or longer. This is problematic as the reduced respiration leads to interrupted sleep, and deprives the body of oxygen, impacting its saturation in the blood and consequentially posing a great risk to the sufferers health.

The greatest health risks are the development of high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, heart attack, or stroke. However, in particular the daytime micro-sleep that sufferers can experience, can pose a threat to the life of the sufferer and potentially others, if occurring at work while operating machinery, or if in traffic while driving a car.

Persons who snore loudly during their sleep, who experience interrupted sleep patterns, wake after a full nights sleep feeling tired and exhausted, and who suffer of day sleepiness, are irritable, have memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and feel depressed, should become aware of this disorder.

There are three types of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common form of the sleep disorder and occurs when, during the process of inspiration, the muscles relax in the back of the throat, and fail to open the airway, obstructing airflow to the lungs. The brain, in turn, receives the signal that breathing is impaired and consequentially stirs the individual to awaken and begin breathing again. These breathing pauses are either an ‘Apnea’, where the airway is blocked completely, or an ‘hypopnea’ where the occlusion is only partial, of 50% or more.

Central Sleep Apnea: This is the more severe form of Apnea, as this is a failure of the brain to properly command muscle contraction during respiration. There is hence, no effort made to actually breath.

Complex Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of the obstructive and the central form of Sleep Apnea.

What factors contribute to the development of Sleep Apnea?

The prevalence of Sleep Apnea is on the rise. Factors promoting the development of Sleep Apnea are excess weight, menopause (in women), the use of medicines such as sedatives, tranquilizers or narcotics, the consumption of alcohol, and smoking. However there is also a hereditary factor, with the prevalence being increased in families where there is a history of Sleep Apnea, and there are factors such as being male, of advanced age, having a strong neck, or an anatomically conditioned nasal congestion that can contribute to the development of Sleep Apnea.

How is Sleep Apnea treated?

Whilst preventative measures are recommended in the treatment of Sleep Apnea, such as limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking and losing weight, these will not suffice to overcome the syndrome. Sleep Apnea cannot be treated to its full resolution as of yet.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the main treatment option for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It is also the most successful therapeutic intervention. With the night time use of a CPAP equipment, a constant flow of air pressure is brought, through a face mask worn by the patient, into the respiratory tract. This pressurized air is adjusted to overcome the muscular obstruction, and thus to maintain the airway open. The patient can continue breathing, most episodes of Sleep Apnea are removed, and most symptoms associated with the disorder are alleviated. The sufferer of Sleep Apnea will have to continue this treatment for life whenever he or she goes to sleep.

Is homeopathy effective in treating the symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

There is little to no research investigating the use of Homeopathy for the treatment of Sleep apnea. However, Homeopathy has in its Materia Medica diverse remedies that can provide relief of the symptoms, and can be supportive in the treatment of the concomitant complaints associated with the disorder. Such treatment though requires an in-depth case-taking and thorough evaluation of the case history presented. Some of the remedies that may be helpful for sufferers of Sleep Apnea are:

Arsenicum Album: There is a shortage of breath with every exertion and upon lying down during the night. There is a violent sensation of constriction about the throat with anxiety felt near the heart that prevents deep breathing. He or she fears to suffocate. The individual needing this remedy is clearly vitally weakened, restless and exhausted. Sleep is disturbed, restless and the individual is anxious. Sleep is disturbed by with suffocative fits.

Grindelia Robusta: This remedy in affections associated with a paralysis of the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain through the body and diverse systems, including the throat. It is in charge of giving off impulses to the pharyngeal and laryngeal area. As such this remedy is indicated for individuals that stop breathing upon falling asleep, and consequentially wake with a start, gasping for breath, as may be the case in Sleep Apnea. The individual needing this remedy is afraid to fall asleep again, because he or she fears the feeling of suffocation.

Lachesis: This remedy has a great impact on the nervous system. Here there is a dominant feeling of strangulation and suffocation upon going to sleep, and the individual cannot bear any tight clothing around his or her neck. There is a distressed feeling about the chest. He or she is impelled to breath deeply. While falling asleep breathing almost stops entirely. There is a sudden starting from sleep.

Opium: In this remedy there is a strong general sluggishness and reduced vital reactivity. The cerebrospinal functions are weakened. This individual snores deeply and his or her breathing is rattling and stertorous. The respiration is unequal and intermittent. He or she stops breathing upon falling asleep, and must be shook to begin breathing again.

Spongia tosta: There is cramping and constriction about the throat. The individual is breathless. Respiration is short, panting and hindered. The airway feels dry. There is strong palpitation, anxiety and a fear of dying on account of the impaired respiration. He or she wakes in a start feeling close to suffocation.

Sulfur: Shortage of breath occurs in the middle of the night and must sit up. He or she cannot lie on the back and cannot breath deeply. There is the sensation of much oppression and burning about the chest. He or she jerks and twitches during sleep, and wakes up frequently during the night and then is wide awake. There is an inclination to take day time naps.


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