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Posted on / Dr. William Strohman

Sleep Apnea: Sleep Tight and Obtaining those Peaceful Z’s

Sleep is a fundamental aspect of overall health. Poor sleep can lead to many issues, including hormone dysfunction, elevated blood pressure, worsening depression/anxiety, occasionally mimicking attention deficit, and resistance to losing weight. 

A common sleep condition is sleep apnea, with an estimated 93 million Americans suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is important to note that sleep quality (insomnia) is a symptom (a sign of something else going on in your body), it is not a defined, treatable condition. The goal is to get to the root cause of the sleep disturbance and then treat that! 

Tests for Sleep Apnea & Poor Sleep

The most informative test is the sleep study. A sleep study helps us diagnose sleep apnea in its varying degrees of severity and lets us view your sleep rhythm. 

Are you getting plenty of deep sleep?
Are you getting sufficient REM sleep? 
Or is there some disorder between these? 

Another means to investigate sleep on your own – is the OURA ring or Apple Watch. These devices can provide you with information on your stages of sleep, heart rate, and heart rate variability, along with oxygen levels. Though these wearables can give you great insights, they are generally poor sleep apnea predictors. 

Sleep Apnea Symptoms & Causes

Sleep apnea, a condition characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, usually presents with either daytime fatigue, frequently napping throughout the week, early morning headaches, and sometimes high blood pressure or low hormones. This condition can be particularly hard on the heart and brain.

There are many factors that could cause an onset of sleep apnea, but the goal is to mitigate and correct as many as possible. 

At LifeScape, we tend to focus on lifestyle changes that reduce risk factors (albeit these may not correct this fully) including:

  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • reducing alcohol intake
  • quitting smoking
  • managing allergies

Also, regular physical activity, a balanced diet, weight management, and improved sleep quality indirectly reduce the likelihood of sleep apnea.

Improving Sleep Hygiene to Reduce the Risk of Sleep Apena 

Good sleep hygiene is essential for everyone, especially those at risk of sleep apnea or other sleep issues. A number of ways to improve your sleep hygiene include:

  1. Establish a regular sleep schedule - especially your AM wake-up time
  2. Create a restful environment - we recommend no electronics in the bed as they can stimulate your mind
  3. Maintain a cool room (just under 70 degrees, or whatever you can afford in this Arizona heat!) - there is some evidence that heating the body and then cooling can be a signal to sleep (e.g. nighttime jacuzzi time)
  4. Establish a ritual where you wind down similarly every night - try tea after dinner, start reading a book, sit in the jacuzzi (and again, be free from electronics)
  5. Limit caffeine to AM time
  6. Limit / eliminate alcohol (it’s like a sleep killer) – if you’re going to drink alcohol, limit it to one drink with dinner/food and avoid using it every day

Common Medications and Supplements for Sleep Apnea 

While there are no specific medications to cure sleep apnea, treatments like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, dental appliances, and the INSPIRE device help keep the airway open during sleep. 
For general sleep improvement, doctors may prescribe medications for underlying conditions contributing to poor sleep, such as anxiety or depression. Recall sleep is more of a symptom and not a disease.
Supplements like magnesium (glycinate or threonate), along with glycine, which is an amino acid, tend to have the least side effects and are most likely to help. 

For melatonin, I’d avoid using anything more than 1mg and only use it sporadically or while traveling and realize it only helps initiate sleep. There are others – like valerian root, nighttime teas, and cortisol manager, but I’d recommend reviewing with your doctor before trying any of these. 

While there are some prescription medications, I’d recommend avoiding most of these as they can be habit-forming (e.g. Ambien, Xanax). If you need a prescription, I’d consider (along with many sleep doctors) trazodone or gabapentin. These are off-label usage, and more of a last resort if supplements fail.

Sleep Apnea and Quality of Life

Sleep apnea and poor sleep have significant health implications but can be managed through lifestyle adjustments, proper medical interventions, and supportive therapies. Prioritizing sleep hygiene and consulting with your personalized doctor for treatment plans are key steps toward achieving restful sleep and maintaining good health.


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