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You May Have This Sleep Issue and Not Even Realize It

podcast cover art for: You May Have This Sleep Issue and Not Even Know It

Season 2 of the Science of Self-Healing Podcast has a NEW host! Please welcome Dr. James Odell, the Medical and Executive Director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years.

Are you or someone close to you experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea? It's quite common for individuals with this condition to be unaware of it, with studies indicating that 85% are undiagnosed.

In this insightful podcast, Dr. Odell sheds light on identifying potential signs of sleep apnea and delves into the range of health complications that can arise from untreated sleep apnea. He also explores effective treatment options for managing the condition.

Additionally, Dr. Odell generously offers general sleep advice beneficial for everyone, irrespective of their sleep status. These tips are aimed at empowering listeners to take charge of their sleep health and make informed decisions concerning this crucial aspect of their well-being. Come join us!

Transcript: You May Have This Sleep Issue and Not Even Realize It

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Science of Self-Healing podcast. For health and wellness knowledge from a different perspective. Produced by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI. We are your source for unparalleled information about how you can naturally support your body's ability to regulate, adapt, regenerate, and self-heal. I'm your host, Dr. James Odell, the medical and executive director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years. And remember, this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the direct care of a qualified health professional who oversees and provides unique and individual care. The information here is to broaden our different perspectives and should not be construed as medical advice or treatment. Let's get started.

In today's podcast, I'll focus on sleep apnea. We'll cover signs that indicate that you or someone else might have it, what it is, and current best practices for treating it. 

As you know, excellent sleep is the pillar of health. Today, most who often brag that they need very little sleep have been convinced that they need even more sleep. Good sleep does great things for the body, mind, and spirit, and poor quality sleep causes physical and mental challenges. It is now understood that mental health problems can cause sleep problems, and sleep problems can cause mental health problems.

We also know that extended periods of poor sleep can contribute to weight gain, moodiness, sleeping for excessive amounts of time, and the lack of desire to do things, even enjoyable things. Prolonged sleep issues often lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, brain damage, dementia, metabolic syndrome, non alcoholic liver, fatty liver disease, cancer, type two diabetes, anxiety, depression, and even a shortened lifespan. Sleep apnea is often misunderstood, and most individuals who have sleep apnea do not know that they even have it. The National Sleep foundation estimates that sleep apnea affects 20% of the population, but 85% of people with sleep apnea don't even know they have it. 

In a study published in 2021, information that indicates that the numbers with sleep apnea are probably higher than 20%, their research showed that almost 5% of adults have been diagnosed with sleep obstructive apnea and almost 4% diagnosed with central sleep apnea. But the data they collected estimates that almost 37% of adults most likely have obstructive sleep apnea. So chances are good that you or a family member or a friend may have sleep apnea. 

So this podcast will help you to identify possible sleep apnea in yourself or others and to help understand why treatment is necessary. 

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person's breathing is repeatedly interrupted throughout the night. 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax to the point that your airway isn't open, which interrupts breathing. 

Central sleep apnea is less common, and it is when the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep. 

Treatment emergent or complex central sleep apnea occurs when an individual with obstructive sleep apnea converts to central sleep apnea when therapy for obstructive sleep apnea is received. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is defined as apnea or hypopnea index, the AHI, apnea hypopnea index, of greater or equal to five, which means an individual has five or more interruptions in breathing each minute when sleeping. Each minute! 

The only way to get an accurate reading of whether or not sleep apnea is present is usually through a doctor supervised overnight sleep study. This study can also be done at home or in a clinic. For adults to be classified as having sleep apnea, they have to meet the following criteria. The criteria is classified as mild, moderate, or severe. 

Mild sleep apnea is an AHI of at least five events or interruptions in breathing per hour when sleeping, but fewer than 15. 

Moderate sleep apnea is an AHI of at least 15 events or interruptions in breathing per hour when sleeping, but fewer than 30. 

Severe AHI is at least 30. Events or interruptions in breathing per hour when sleeping. 

For children to be classified as having sleep apnea, they must meet the following criteria:

Mild - children with an AHI of one to five events or interruptions in breathing per hour while sleeping may be diagnosed with mild sleep apnea. 

Moderate - children with an AHI of six to ten events or interruptions in breathing per hour while sleeping may be diagnosed with a moderate sleep apnea and… 

Severe - children with an AHI of more than ten events or interruptions in breathing per hour while sleeping may be diagnosed with a severe sleep apnea. 

Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea often have low oxygen levels because of pauses in their breathing when they're sleeping. 

Oxygen levels while sleeping can only be accurately obtained with an overnight sleep study, and it is one of the most important pieces of information that a sleep study measures because it predicts future health concerns. 

This is usually done with a pulse oximeter. Hypoxemia refers to lower than normal oxygen levels in the blood. Apnea means that there is less oxygen rich air in the lungs, which makes it difficult for oxygen molecules to be picked up by hemoglobin proteins in the red blood cells. With less oxygen in each red blood cell, each heartbeat delivers less oxygen to the vital organs. With the body in a state of hypoxia, stress hormones are released. This signals the pumping of more blood. 

During episodes of apnea, it is common to see heart rates even exceed 150 beats per minute that match or exceed maximums in those participating in strenuous activities. And normal sleeping heart rate should be closer to 60 to 85 beats per minute. 

Lower oxygen levels in the brain tissues can also alter neurohormones and lead to depressive symptoms. The lack of restful sleep adds to irritability and affects emotional responses to stress. Hypoxia has been shown to stimulate the release of hormones that promote growth in tumors. Stress hormones that are released during apnea, such as cortisol and epinephrine, raise blood sugar levels, which means it's harder for the body to use insulin effectively, often leading to insulin resistance or type two diabetes. 

So oxygen levels during sleep normally are 90% and above abnormal is 80% to 89% and severely abnormal is below 80%. 

Remember, sleep apnea is a serious condition and it just can't be powered through and a home study or sleep center is needed to determine whether apnea is present. 

Things like watches, rings and other apps are not considered reliable when determining whether one has sleep apnea. 

Indicators of signs of sleep apnea can include snoring, sleeplessness, waking up with headaches, high blood pressure, memory problems, night sweats, insomnia, frequent need to urinate during the night, irritability, dry mouth and gasping for air when sleeping. 

It is important to identify and treat sleep apnea because if left untreated, it can result in heart attacks, strokes, brain damage, dementia and impairment functioning, including dangerous driving, which can cause safety issues. 

In children. Lack of proper sleep can present as ADHD, learning problems, depression and anxiety. You can watch your child sleep and observe whether they breathe through their nose or their mouth. 

Do they ever seem to startle and briefly wake up, or do they appear to stop breathing or gasping for air? Also notice whether they appear tired and low in energy and share the information with their pediatrician. 

Current treatment for sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes. 

  • It's better to sleep on your side and not on your back if you have issues with snoring and apnea. Some people have difficulty sleeping on their side, but this is something that you could get used to. Of course, it's not good to sleep on your stomach either, that this is quite bad for your neck. 

  • If overweight, consider losing weight and adding movement to your life. This is because obesity is a big risk for obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause heart problems and other health issues. Losing weight can help with obstructive sleep apnea, but it's not always a cure for everyone, especially when patients regain weight. Studies have reaffirmed that weight reduction through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can significantly improve obstructive sleep apnea symptoms and may even lead to remission in some cases. Additionally, some studies have shown that sustained weight loss can maintain these improvements in obstructive sleep apnea even after the intervention ends. This growing body of research highlights the importance of weight management as a key aspect of obstructive sleep apnea. 

  • Next, alcohol, prescriptive sleep medications, and antihistamines like benadryl can make sleep apnea worse. Avoid them as much as possible. I know some people take benadryl for sleep or other types of prescriptive sleep aids, but these actually can make the apnea worse. 

  • Breathing out of your mouth makes sleep apnea worse. Try to train yourself to breathe through your nose and be aware. If appropriate, consider using mouth tape and chin straps to assist with breathing through your nose while sleeping. There are cases where it is physiologically difficult to breathe through your nose. Individuals with that profile often benefit from the expertise of an ENT. 

  • Dental appliances. Dentists who specialize in sleep medicines and sleep devices can also create dental appliances for those with mild to moderate apnea and for those who, after an examination, are deemed good candidates for the appliance. Oral appliance therapy usually involves wearing a custom fitted device in your mouth during sleep that helps you keep your airway open while you're sleeping. 

  • And of course, lastly, but not least, a CPAP machine. This is continuous. Positive airway pressure uses mild pressure to keep breathing always open while you sleep. CPAP may be prescribed to treat sleep apnea and breathing disorders. It may also be used for preterm infants with undeveloped lungs. Many doctors still consider CPAP to be the gold standard for treating sleep apnea. I have many patients that have CPAP machines, and they swear by them. They think that this has really, really helped their whole life. It's just changed their life around 

  • Things that are being worked on. Well, there's medicines, of course, in development, but medications tend to come with side effects. So I recommend getting to the root cause of the issue, which is of course bioregulatory medicine is all about. 

  • In the case of sleep apnea, structural issues are usually to blame, so this should be addressed first. 

Here are my final thoughts and general suggestions for a higher sleep quality for everyone. 

  • Remember, good sleep hygiene still matters. 

  • Sleep in the darkest room possible.

  • Limit screen time, particularly before you go to sleep, that I recommend red lights to be used for a few hours before bedtime. Definitely avoiding blue lights. 

  • Limit caffeine, nicotine, antihistamines, and sedatives. 

  • Try to lose any excess weight. Studies have shown that weight loss through lifestyle and dietary interventions result in improvements in obstructive sleep apnea parameters, but is insufficient to normalize them. The changes in obstructive sleep apnea parameters could, however, be clinically relevant in some patients. By reducing sleep apnea severity, these things may help to reduce its severity to the point where it's really not bothersome. These promising preliminary results need to be confirmed through really larger randomized studies, including more intensive weight loss approaches. 

  • Experiment with yoga and relaxation techniques and use the techniques that improve your sleep. 

  • Allow yourself constructive worry where you write down solutions and steps you can take to the next day to help solve problems. This way, you don't sit around at night with your head like a mouse in the wheel worrying about things. 

  • Magnesium supplements can help maintain healthy levels of the neurotransmitter gaba, gamma aminobutyric acid, which may reduce cortisol stress and anxiety. Magnesium helps to inhibit the sympathetic nervous system and relaxes muscles in the body, so it's also good for restless legs and cramps at night. So taking a good magnesium supplement prior to bed is often useful. 

  • In 2019, a review found that consuming a mediterranean diet decreases insomnia and increases sleep quality. 

  • Develop and commit to a sleep schedule, and don't criticize yourself or get anxious if you aren't falling asleep easily. A sleep schedule would mean to be going to sleep at a certain time every night, like a routine and waking up at a certain time. 

  • Rule out sleep issues such as sleep apnea and if diagnosed, determine the root cause and work with physicians to implement the right plan for you. 

Well, this concludes this podcast on sleep apnea. Please tune in in two weeks for another episode of the Science of Self-Healing. Till then, be well. 

Thank you for your time today, and remember that this podcast is made possible by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI, a nonprofit, global, non political, non commercial institute to promote the science and art of bioregulatory medicine. We extend our gratitude to each and every one of you for listening today, and if you haven't already, make sure to visit us at A treasure trove of invaluable information awaits you there. Connect with us across various social media platforms as well. Come and become a member of our thriving tribe. If you've enjoyed today's episode, we invite you to show your support by rating us, leaving us a review, or sharing the podcast within your circle. Our podcast and mission flourish through sharing, and your participation means the world to us. Our organization is sustained by donations, each of which is tax deductible and fuels projects like this. Visit our website,, to contribute or simply to explore the wealth of uncensored and impartial information we offer. No contribution is too small. In just two weeks, we'll be back delving into another captivating topic. Until then, we thank you once again for listening. May wellness and wisdom be your path. Be well.


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