New Treatment for Sleep Apnea

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June 18, 2003 | 46,011 views

An antidepressant called mirtazapine may help people with a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder, sleep apnea, and may also help heavy snorers.

With sleep apnea, airflow from the nose and mouth to the lungs is restricted during sleep, causing the person to stop breathing for up to one minute, sometimes hundreds of times a night.

Sleep apnea affects an estimated 15 million to 20 million people in the United States and is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and adult-onset diabetes.

Additionally, apnea, which means "without breath," can lead to behavioral problems and learning difficulties because people do not get enough rest.

Currently, sleep apnea is treated with mechanical devices such as masks or nasal prongs, which maintain a continuous positive airway pressure. However, the devices can be uncomfortable and difficult to use long-term.

But now researchers have found that mirtazapine, an antidepressant, can significantly reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea and may also help heavy snorers.

The study involved 12 people between the ages of 20 and 70 years and was funded by NV Organon, which markets the drug as Remeron for a treatment for depression.

During three seven-day treatment periods, participants were given either mirtazapine or a dummy pill one hour before bedtime.

The participants were then monitored throughout the night.

Researchers found that using the drug cut the number of times breathing stopped or slowed during sleep in half and reduced the number of times sleep was disrupted by 28 percent.

According to researchers, since the drug helped sleep apnea, it could also help snoring. However, they questioned whether snorers would want to take the drug.

The U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration has not approved Mirtazapine for the treatment of sleep apnea. Its use in this trial was approved for experimental purposes only.

BBC News June 4, 2003

Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is themost common effective treatment for sleep apnea. The patientwears a mask over the nose during sleep, and pressure froman air blower forces air through the nasal passages. The airpressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to preventthe throat from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constantand continuous. Nasal CPAP prevents airway closure while inuse, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or usedimproperly.

Believe it or not, some patients even resort to surgeryfor this problem. Surgical procedures are used to increasethe size of the airway. Obviously, none of these proceduresare completely successful or without risks.

One of the most consistent recommendations for sleep apneathough is to normalize your weight. Reducing grains and sugarsas I discuss in my new book, The No-Grain Diet, is one effective way to do that.

While this study found that drug-based antidepressantswere helpful for sleep apnea, the implications are clear andobvious that any approach that improves depression will likelyhelp sleep apnea.

It is important to recognize though that non-drug basedtherapies rarely have the funding and support required tobe studied.

So, it’s likely that non-drug-based solutions designedto treat depression will be helpful. Soda, juices, sugar-coatedgrain cereals, candies, cookies, doughnuts, chips, popcorn,ice cream, pizza and vegetables oils are loaded with transomega-6 fats along with a deficiency of omega-3 oils. Theamazing thing is that so many can actually survive this nutritionalassault.

When it comes to documenting the devastation that depressionhas on us, the material is identical from a natural approach.Depression, or more accurately, un-repaired emotional short-circuiting,absolutely devastates our health and, in my estimation, causesfar more profound negative health consequences than all therotten food, toxins and poisons we expose ourselves to.

Adequate treatment for depression in a traditional modelis a nearly universal synonym for drug therapy or ineffectivecognitive counseling. Earlier this year another major review clearly showed that there is very little differencebetween most all antidepressants and a placebo.

Does this mean that antidepressants don’t work? Absolutelynot, but in the vast majority of cases a benefit is felt becausethe person taking the pill believes that the pill will healtheir depression. The "science" is quite clear onthis.

Similarly, I posted an article earlier this year on the multi-center placebo randomized controlledtrial on arthroscopic knee surgery for arthritis. Amazingly,the study showed that the surgery is no better than a placebo,yet 650,000 people in the United States receive this infectivesurgery each year, at a cost of about $5,000 per procedure.This equates to a total cost of about $3.3 billion every yearin the United States.

But that cost and waste is a mere drop in the bucket whenit comes to the devastation that results when people’slives are damaged by the trauma of inadequately treated depression.

Optimizing the diet is clearly an important step, andone of the most important tools will be to make sure you aregetting enough omega-3 fats. I have had large numbers of patientsspontaneously take themselves off their antidepressants oncethey started the fish oils.

Dr. Stoll, director of the psychopharmacology researchlab at Boston's McLean Hospital and assistant professor ofpsychiatry at Harvard Medical School, discusses this topicextensively in his book The Omega-3 Connection. I highly recommend this book, whichreviews new evidence supporting the use of omega-3 oils fordepression.

I also recommend a high-quality source of krill oil.

However, when it comes to the major player here, it iscertainly energetic rebalancing techniques, my favorite ofwhich is EFT. You can review my free, 25-page report that discusses how to perform the EFT technique, however, depression is best treated with a trained EFT therapist.To find an EFT therapist near you, you can review Dr. PatriciaCarrington’s guidelines.

Exercise willalso be another important tool to optimize your recovery.


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