Monthly Archives: June 2017

Are Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy Related?

Do you struggle to keep your eyes open during the day? Try to sneak in naps here and there? Find it difficult to concentrate? While these are common symptoms everyone experiences from time to time as a result of working long hours, getting too little sleep and other lifestyle choices, they could be a sign of specific medical conditions especially when accompanied by memory problems, loss of appetite, anxiety and irritability. Could it be sleep apnea or narcolepsy? Are they related? While sleep apnea and narcolepsy both lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, cause you to nod off and are considered sleep disorders, that’s where their similarities end.

What’s Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the control of wakefulness and sleep. The telltale symptom of narcolepsy is uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep throughout the day. Other symptoms include the sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy), intense emotions such as laughter and anger, hallucinations and temporary sleep paralysis. Scientists aren’t sure what causes narcolepsy, but are looking into the possibility of identifying multiple factors such as genes associated with the disorder as well abnormalities in various parts of the brain involved in regulating REM sleep.

What’s Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is not a neurological disorder, but rather a breathing-related sleep disorder. Those with sleep apnea stop breathing several times an hour during each night due to an obstruction of their airway. This obstruction is typically caused when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, causing the airway to narrow or close making it difficult to breathe. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and stirs you awake to breathe again. This interrupted breathing prevents you from getting a good night of sleep and is what leads to feeling so sleepy throughout the day.

Can Someone Have Both Narcolepsy and Sleep Apnea?

Yes. According to a study published by Sleep Medicine, an individual can have both narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea. Interestingly, the study reveals, “sleep apnea occurs frequently in narcolepsy and may delay the diagnosis of narcolepsy by several years and interfere with its proper management.” Furthermore, “Treatment with CPAP does not usually improve excessive daytime sleepiness in narcoleptics with sleep apnea.”

Can Allergies Affect Sleep Apnea? Read to Learn More

Once springtime rolls around, the sounds of birds chirping and kids playing outdoors are joined by the not so pleasant sounds of sniffling and sneezing of allergy sufferers. If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis), you know all too well how difficult it is to get a restful night of sleep when you can’t breathe. While it’s no secret that sleep problems and seasonal allergies go hand-in-hand, many wonder if allergies can affect another type of sleep problem — sleep apnea.

What’s the Connection?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which one’s breathing becomes shallow or briefly stops multiple times a night. Apnea occurs as a result of the muscles of the throat relaxing and blocking the airway. Allergies similarly can block one’s airway by causing the upper airway to narrow while the tonsils and adenoids swell. Many experts agree that nasal congestion increases the risk of both snoring and sleep apnea among seasonal allergy patients. According to a study published by the American Review of Respiratory Disease, “in patients with allergic rhinitis, obstructive sleep apneas are longer and more frequent during a period of symptomatic nasal obstruction than when symptoms are absent.”

Is There A Solution?

Yes! Reducing nasal inflammation caused by allergies with the help of medications and natural remedies reduces symptoms of sleep apnea. This is especially important for those who already use a CPAP mask for sleep apnea and find it impossible to use their mask with a blocked nasal passage.

Rather than ditching your CPAP mask during allergy season, try switching to a different type of CPAP mask. For example, if allergies are making breathing through your nose impossible, you’re more likely to benefit from a full face mask than from a nasal pillow mask. While a nasal mask only delivers air through your nose, a full face mask covers your mouth and nose, ensuring that you still receive air whether your nose is congested or not.

If your allergies are interfering with your sleep apnea treatment, don’t put your treatment on hold. Talk with your doctor about alleviating congestion and switching to a different type of CPAP mask during allergy season. Before you know it, you’ll be able to breathe easy and rest easy, too!