Blame Sleep Apnea For Fatigue

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have lived with my boyfriend for a year, and we are going to get married soon. One obstacle to marriage for me is his snoring. It’s so loud that I cannot sleep with him. He starts out with a soft snore that builds into a sound that rivals a jet engine. He says snoring is a family thing for him.

He is tired all day long. He works hard, comes home, takes a nap, eats and then says he’s still tired. He sleeps a lot on weekends, too. Does snoring have anything to do with this? — B.K.

ANSWER: Let me describe sleep apnea, and you judge whether it applies to your fiance. Typically, it involves snoring that gets louder and louder and then suddenly stops. Silence reigns. After a short while, the snorer makes a grunting sound and the snoring cycle repeats.

The period of silence is the apnea period. “Apnea” means “no breathing.” Apnea episodes last 10 or more seconds, and they end when the snorer makes a grunting sound and resumes his snoring. During apnea, blood oxygen content dips, and the dip partially rouses the person to begin breathing.

Sleep apnea is a health menace. The drop in blood oxygen has several important consequences. It affects the heart and can lead to dangerous heart rhythms. People with sleep apnea often develop high blood pressure and all the complications of increased pressure. These people do not get restorative sleep. They feel drugged during the day.

The diagnosis of sleep apnea is made with special studies done in a sleep lab. Portable equipment is available for home testing.

If your fiance is overweight, weight loss might put an end to snoring and apnea. He should drink no alcohol after 5 p.m. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine keeps air flowing past the throat obstruction that blocks its entry into the lungs. Talk your fiance into discussing these matters with his doctor.

The booklet on chronic fatigue syndrome includes a discussion of sleep apnea. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 304W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 38253-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Sometimes I jerk awake just before falling asleep. Why? Can anything be done about it? — J.A.

ANSWER: That happens to lots of people, and sometimes it happens when a person is just wakening. There’s a temporary disconnect between the brain and muscles at those times, and it results in a short jerk. It’s not a sign of any illness.

I don’t know of any treatment for it. Most people fall asleep shortly after it happens.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is eating cereal with added vitamins and minerals as good as taking a vitamin pill each day? — M.L.

ANSWER: Sure it is. A well-balanced diet provides all the needed vitamins and minerals. The catch lies in eating such a diet. Our ancestors survived pretty well without taking vitamin pills.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.He is tired all day long. He works hard, comes home, takes a nap, eats and then says he’s still tired. He sleeps a lot on weekends, too. Does snoring have anything to do with this?

© 2008 North America Synd., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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