Have you been told by your medical practitioner that you should start singing? Although it seems like a fairly strange suggestion, it has now been shown that singing exercises can help alleviate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.
A recent clinical study conducted by Exeter University and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, concluded that exercising the muscles in the soft palate and upper throat – the muscles that are often in weak in patients with obstructive sleep apnea – can greatly reduce the severity and loudness of snoring and cases of apneas during sleep.
The study used patients who were considered to be chronic snorers as well as patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. The best thing about the results? The singing exercises were easy and quick to do so that the majority of study participants were able to complete their exercises routinely without problems for 3 months. Basic exercises that help to strengthen the muscles in the throat are practised by professional singers and can be learned by anyone. And if you get good, you could even start your own local choir!
In recent news, a study conducted by the Taipei Medical University has definitively linked having sleep apnea with a high risk of developing blindness in the form of glaucoma (an eye disease which results in loss of vision or blindness). For the first time ever, researchers were able to link the two conditions in people aged 40 and over.
After studying more than 1000 patients, the nationwide study concluded that having obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a strong risk factor for developing “open-angle” glaucoma. This type of glaucoma is typically slower in developing, meaning it takes years before symptoms may appear. As a result, people who are at risk of potentially losing vision or going blind entirely may not realize until the later stages of the disease.
The study’s researchers are urging for all sleep apnea specialist and clinicians to talk to their patients about glaucoma and the risks associated with the disease. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends that everyone over the age of 40 get an eye exam from an ophthalmologist to reduce the chances of developing glaucoma later in life.
A Press Release on the study from the American Academy of Ophthalmology can be found here.
However, a new study has shown that people with Type 2 Diabetes are also at a higher risk for developing OSA. The link between Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea was explored in the study conducted by the University of Texas Family Medicine Center*. The study surveyed a group of adults over the age of 18 who had Type 2 diabetes, and they were given questions based on a number of factors such as socio-demographic and economic information, their medical history and type and number of medications. To determine their risk of OSA, study participants were asked to complete a Berlin Questionnaire, which is a simple set of questions widely used throughout the US to determine risk factors for the condition.
The results were as follows:
Finally, two interesting points that we noticed from the study into Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea – patients who were considered to be at risk of developing depression, or who had symptoms of depression were more likely to develop OSA, and the gender of the participant had no bearing on the risk levels for OSA. It seems apparent that further studies into the link between depression and sleep apnea definitely seem warranted.
*Source: Cass AR, Alonso WJ, Islam J, Weller SC. Risk of obstructive sleep apnea in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Fam Med. 2013 Jul-Aug;45(7):492-500
A new study has concluded what most sufferers of sleep apnea know already – that their symptoms get much worse during the winter months. The study, conducted by Cristiane Maria Cassol of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, followed over 7,000 patients with sleep apnea over 10 years to find out how seasonal changes affect the way people breathe during sleep.
The “breathing events” of patients were monitored using a range of different factors, including temperature and humidity. Those patients who were measured during the colder months experienced more “events” where they stopped breathing – 18 times an hour – as opposed to those measured in summer – 15 times an hour. Critically, it was also found that the most severe cases, or those patients who stopped breathing over 30 times an hour, were also measured during the colder months.
The study’s researchers believe that a combination of seasonal factors may affect the severity of the condition. These include:
So what does this for sleep apnea sufferers? Well, strap yourself in and get ready for a bumpier ride in winter. The best thing to do is to avoid getting a cold or flu, or any kind of chest infection and try to keep exercising and eating well over those colder months to keep your weight down. If you’re an asthmatic or sensitive to allergies, stick to your medication and try to avoid situations where you’ll be exposed to nasties like wood smoke.
As if the problems associated with sleep apnea weren’t serious enough, a new research study has just concluded that people with the condition may face an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. The long-term study, conducted by Dr Apoor Gami from the Midwest Heart Specialists Group in Illinois (and funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health), followed over 10,000 men and women with diagnosed sleep apnea for 15 years.
The results strongly indicate that having obstructive sleep apnea (“OSA”) can greatly increase your risk of what they call sudden cardiac death – that is when your heart’s electrical functions are disrupted and blood stops being pumped around your body. It can be fatal unless emergency treatment is begun soon after symptoms occur. This bad news is, cardiac death is just one of many sleep apnea risks that researchers are looking into.
The study also found that if you have sleep apnea, your risk of suffering sudden cardiac death is greatest when:
Interestingly, the study didn’t look into whether receiving treatment for sleep apnea such as a CPAP machine would reduce the risk of cardiac death, although when asked Dr Gami suggested that it might be reasonable to conclude as much.