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July 2, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: Sleep Apnea? Dr. Yoni Freedhoff will sort you out


Dr. Freedhoff is the founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

His philosophy is that "It's much more fun to stop drugs than to start them."

Even though his formal training was as a family physician, such a sensible view of the practice of medicine qualifies him for honorary membership in the Blogging Anesthesiologist Hall of Fame.

But I digress.

On June 20, 2007 his blog, Weighty Matters, featured a post entitled "Do You Have Sleep Apnea?"

Useful and on point, it follows.

    Do you have Sleep Apnea?

    I guess the first question should be, "Do you know what sleep apnea is?".

    Amazingly, despite its clear causal association with hypertension, memory disorders, and obesity and the associated increased risk of sudden death, motor vehicle accidents and depression, many folks with sleep apnea don't know what it is.

    Put simply, sleep apnea involves a person repeatedly stopping breathing during sleep which in turn causes them to not enjoy restorative sleep and to have low levels of oxygen in their bloodstream.

    There are 3 types of sleep apnea: Obstructive, central and mixed with obstructive being far and away the most common and the one directly related to weight with the weight of a neck actually causing collapse or narrowing of upper airways during sleep.

    Testing usually involves suffering through a terrible night's sleep at a sleep lab (though I'm sure some are lovely and don't involve trying to sleep through the chaos of a hospital) and then treatment usually involves sleeping with something called a CPAP mask that uses air under pressure to continually keep airways open.

    Folks with successfully CPAP treated sleep apnea will almost always report that they can't imagine ever living without their CPAP machine because it has so dramatically improved their quality of life.

    A person with sleep apnea might complain of NEVER feeling well rested, morning headaches, memory disturbances and daytime sleepiness. Their partner might complain of loud snoring (though snoring is not a must) or actual witnessed apnea events where they watch their partner stop breathing for up to a minute at a time.

    The problem in Canada is that sleep labs are sometimes difficult to get to, especially in rural areas. Recently a company in Canada invented something they call a "Sleep Strip" which is actually a very sophisticated device that helps to screen for sleep apnea in your own home. It's the device pictured at the top of this post and it's available for sale at their website for $49.95 (CAD).


Here are links to three videos demonstrating the SleepStrip.


Full disclosure: I have never met Dr. Freedhoff. I have never spoken to Dr. Freedhoff. I have, however, exchanged emails with him. In fact, he sent me a link to the post featured above, for which I say, "Thank you."

July 2, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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I can guarantee you I would have no episodes of sleep apnea while trying to use that device, because I would be unable to sleep in the first place.

Posted by: Al Christensen | Jul 2, 2007 3:04:44 PM

When I was in my early 40's I developed high blood pressure. It took so much medication to control that every single time I refilled the prescriptions for the 5 drugs I was on, the pharmacist would call the doctor to verify that I should be taking so much medication (unfortunately I can't remember the names of the various drugs). By chance I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and started using a CPAP. After about 1 year my high blood pressure disappeared completely and for about 18 years was "drug free". I now take a mild anti-hypertensive, but at a dosage that is typical for someone of my age (62). It was a textbook case of what sleep apnea can do.

Posted by: Paul Biba | Jul 2, 2007 2:18:55 PM

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