The People's Perspective on Medicine

Solving Sleep Trouble Eases Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is generally thought of as a precursor to diabetes and heart disease. It is characterized by a large waist, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Insulin resistance and high triglycerides levels are also features of metabolic syndrome. People with this condition often have a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Such individuals may snore loudly and have periods in which they stop breathing temporarily and gasp for breath.

Researchers in India have demonstrated that treating obstructive sleep apnea with a device called continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP can help alleviate some of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The investigators recruited 86 patients with both sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome for a double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over trial.

Half the patients were treated with CPAP first, while the remaining people got a sham CPAP mask with minute holes in it and a flow-restricting connector. The treatments were used for 3 months, followed by a month of no treatment; then patients were switched to the opposite treatment for 3 months. During the CPAP treatment, blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids improved, while they did not improve during sham treatment. In some patients, CPAP treatment was associated with a reversal of metabolic syndrome.

[New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 15, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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My hubby used to snore so loudly that I couldn’t sleep through it. Not only was he tired but so was I. I read something about serious snoring and had him go to an ENT Dr. A sleep study was done and he was given a CPAP. Sleep has been wonderful for both of us now for many years and he doesn’t fall asleep in front of the TV anymore.
Anybody, even children, with serious snoring should be checked out. It had really serious affects on one’s health.

Thank you so much for reporting on this study. I was looking for this exact information just this week. My husband has metabolic syndrome and was diagnosed with sleep apnea just last week. He won’t be fitted for his CPAP machine until next month. I will let you know if any improvement in his metabolic syndrome results from the treatment. I hope it does!

Please take this news very seriously.
I am a 53 year old female. About seven years ago I often would repeatedly “almost wake up” – feeling like I was drowning, choking, gasping, or snoring. I had been married to a sleep apneac for many years, who was in denial; so I was very familiar with the signs.
I requested an overnight study in a sleep lab and obstructive sleep apnea was confirmed. I don’t have the test results with me, but the monitors and video recorded me “almost awakening” an average of more than twenty times each HOUR.
I am 68″ tall (173cm) and at the time I weighed 222lbs (100kilos). I had a roll of fat around my neck and a double-chin. My waist was so big that my measurements were like a rectangle (40-40-40).
I had high blood pressure and my cholesterol/triglyceride levels were abnormal. I would fall asleep on the bus and drool on my shirt. I had severe depression and was on SSRI medication. I was always irritable and it seemed like everything was a major production.
Honestly it took a while to learn how to sleep with the mask and hose and head straps. (The machine itself is quieter than a fan.) But I was bound and determined to get the hang of it. I dragged that thing around everywhere, including out of the country.
I started feeling SO much better and little, tiny changes took place: I lost weight, stopped feeling grumpy all the time, had energy to walk farther and faster, the depression decreased and (with the approval of my doctor) I was able to wean myself off the medication. I began to really pay attention to what I ate instead of just stuffing something in my mouth because I was so tired.
About once a year the pressure level on the CPAP would have to be lowered. Because after every ten pounds of weight loss, there was less force needed to keep my airway open. Just this past month I was finally able to stop using my machine. I had actually gotten to the lowest level that the CPAP can operate and it was still too much pressure on my respiratory system. What I didn’t realize until recently, was that I had lost all the fat that had been on the INSIDE of my throat.
Today I weigh 160lbs (73kilos), my blood pressure and cholesterol/triglyceride levels are normal. I have one chin, a regular neck, and a waist. There have been many other factors in this path to have a second try at life; but honestly it all started with the CPAP. Without good quality sleep every single night, none of the other healing habits would have started.
On one hand I feel that my comment may come across as bragging. I hope it doesn’t. It’s just that I am passionate about people being aware that this article from the Graedon’s is true, at least for me. Not only that, but just try googling the side effects of untreated sleep apnea and you can see reams of articles about how it can cause brain damage and affect every single system in your body.
I have had many people tell me that sleep apnea doesn’t matter, or the therapy won’t work, or women don’t get it, etc. Sometimes men will get really stubborn when I bring it up. Here’s a classic response: “It’s just snoring.” One guy even told me that it was G*D’s will and that he would never even get tested.
No, sleep apnea is literally repetitive, nightly, partial suffocation. What triggers the “almost awakening” is the micro-squirt of adrenaline that happens once your oxygen level drops.
Oh yes, one more thing… there is research being done now about a possible connection between children who have ADD or ADHD and sleep apnea. It kind of makes sense that the wiggling around and having difficulty paying attention might just be because they are bone-tired and don’t know it.

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