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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Pillows
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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Pillows

I have undergone a full over night sleep study and will meet with my Pulmonary Doctor on Friday to discuss the results and diagnosis.  

I have already be diagnosed from a simple visual inspection of my throat (via the open mouth) and chest x-rays to have a mild obstruction - this by the visual inspection.  The x-rays did not show any lung problems, hope they are correct.

I'd very much prefer not to have to go the CPAP route and have already had a discussion during my first examination about the benefits of losing weight (I am about 25 pounds over weight on a 6'6" frame) and I wonder if there are pillows that help one hold their head in a position that provides some relief from the obstruction.

I note that when I start to relax too much in the seated position my chin drops to my chest and this seems to be the cause of me jerking back awake feeling some minor suffocation reactions.

I will try tonight to sleep on my back with no pillow - so my heard isn't held up above my chest and see if I can detect any difference.  This makes me wonder if there are pillows specifically designed to help hold one's head in a more level position when sleeping.

Looking for experience, and yes I understand that sleeping on one's side, not back, may provide relief from apnea blocking the throat.
7 Comments Post a Comment
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
Hello and hope you are doing well.

When a person sleeps the airways are usually patent allowing normal passage for air entry. The upper airway that is at the region of the tongue and the soft palate is the most compliant (soft) part. So, this is liable to collapse and cause airway obstruction. Now why does this obstruction happen in some people? 1. In overweight people the circumferential diameter becomes smaller. 2. Anatomical factors (structure) like enlarged tonsils, volume of the tongue, lengthy soft palate or abnormal positioning of the maxilla and mandible can further narrow the lumen 3. Some people are prone for decreased neuromuscular activity to the upper airway muscles during sleep and this reduces the tone of the muscles leading to further collapse of the airway. This can increase with aging.

There are specially designed pillow for Obstructive sleep apnea. Studies have been done to study the effects of specially designed pillow on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. The pillow was found to be an effective and easily used treatment for mild (respiratory disturbance index [RDI] 5 to 19) and moderate (RDI 20 to 40) obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. In turn it helped to increase the REM stage of sleep and increased oxygen saturations.

Hope this helped and do keep us posted.
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612551_tn?1247839157
Thanks for the timely answer.  I have an appointment with a Pulmonary Sleep Specialist on Friday.  I will discuss the pillow idea with him, as well as losing weight.  I am overweight but by nor more than 30 pounds on a tall (6'6") frame.  It is easy for me to lose 20 pounds, keeping it off is another matter.  But have a reason such as not needing to sleep with a CPAP could be just what I need to keep it off.

I tried sleeping with just one pillow, instead of two. This lowers my head and puts less of a curve on my throat - it seemed to help a little.
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
Hello and hope you are doing well.

Losing weight and sleeping on the side will help relieve symptoms of sleep apnea. In addition, avoid alcohol, this aggravates the symptoms. Also, any blocked nasal passages, keep them patent with OTC nasal decongestants.

Hope this helped and do keep us posted.
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612551_tn?1247839157
The "sleep doctor" give me a diagnosis of mild sleep apnea.  I get reasonable amounts of REM sleep, about 18% in tested night, and sleep on my side most of the time.  He said a CPAP would be the next step in treatment, but when I suggest trying to lose weight first, he agreed that was a reasonable approach.  I promised 20 pounds if 5 to 6 weeks. If I accomplish this and can say it is my perception that my apnea symptoms are gone or greatly reduced he would prescribe another at home Recording Oximeter test.  If that shows I am staying in the 95% range or, I think, at least stay above the 90% all the time we will consider my cured until "next time".. or until I backslide and gain the weight back.

This could be a win-win for me.  I find it easy to drop from 245 to 230 and think by sticking with it I can get down to 225, a good weight for me at 6 foot 5 inches.  All my cloths will again fit, most fat is belly, and I hope neck, fat.  

Wish me luck both at losing the pounds and finding that is the fix/cure.
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
A good start. Hope in the 'fight' with weight you don't miss out on the essential nutrients, then you will be buying one problem for the other. Ensure to take a good balanced diet and make exercise and walking a life style, rather than a 'set protocol'. This way you will enjoy it and will keep at it too.

Truly wish you All the Luck. Do Well.
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Avatar_m_tn
I think cpap is probably better since it splints your airway open.
it's terrible sleep apnea has given me exhaustion memory problems, severe depression
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612551_tn?1247839157
As I noted, my apnea is "mild" and even the sleep test/study showed I got a reasonable amount of REM sleep. I can testify to that myself as I both recall dreaming and I am not particularly sleepy during awake times, I can drive long distances without nodding off.

The forecast was I'd see only minor improvement from CPAP, so I am still working on losing weight.  That isn't going as well as I had planned, now over two weeks and I have lost only 3.5 pounds (at most). I have at least another 15 to go to meet my commitment to my doctor.  I suppose in any case the decision to go CPAP is mine, and there are other passive devices for the mouth/jaw may work for me.  

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