What is Sleep Apnea?
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), an estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with the great majority experiencing moderate to severe sleep apnea that has gone completely undiagnosed. But, what exactly is sleep apnea? Simply put, it is a sleep disorder in which a person's breathing is repeatedly interrupted. One ASAA article explains that there are three kinds of sleep apnea:
"Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the tongue collapses against the soft palate and the soft palate collapses against the back of the throat during sleep, and the airway is closed. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Complex sleep apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two conditions.
"With each apnea event, the brain rouses the sleeper, usually only partially, to signal breathing to resume. In those with severe sleep apnea this can happen hundreds of times a night, often most intensely late in the sleep cycle during rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep."
And of course, when normal, restorative sleep cycles are interrupted, sleep becomes fragmented and of poor quality. This, in turn, puts major stress on the person's physical system and can result in further complications including high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, liver problems and obesity.
What are the most common symptoms of sleep apnea? Difficulty staying asleep at night, loud snoring and tiredness during the day.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
A study titled, "Sleep Apnea and Cervical Spine Pathology" reported, "Sleep apnea is a multi-factorial disease with a variety of identified causes. With its close proximity to the upper airway, the cervical spine and its associated pathologies can produce sleep apnea symptoms in select populations. [For instance,] occipital–cervical misalignment pre- and post-cervical fusion surgery may predispose patients to sleep apnea."
So, while there are other factors that could be causing sleep apnea (i.e. obesity, dental conditions like a severe overbite, excessive alcohol consumption), one fairly common cause actually has to do with a misalignment of the spine.
How Chiropractic Care Alleviates Sleep Apnea
Chiropractic care, specifically the atlas orthogonal technique, is extremely effective at bringing your entire spine back into alignment. The C1 vertebra (also known as the "atlas") is the top bone in your neck, located right at the base of your skull. It protects the brainstem where it connects to the spinal cord. Even a small misalignment of this tiny bone can seriously impair your brainstem's performance. What's more, a misaligned atlas causes the rest of the spine to shift unnaturally and can create vertebral subluxations in multiple locations all the way down your neck and back. These misalignments of the spine put pressure on your nervous system, making it difficult for the brain to send messages to the rest of your body.
How is all of this related to sleep apnea? Well, you'll recall that with central and complex sleep apnea, the brain fails to signal your muscles to breathe. In many cases, this is a direct result of a misalignment of the atlas or cervical spine. Correcting the misalignment allows the brain's signal to breathe to flow freely to the organs in question via your nervous system and you can finally get a restful night's sleep.
If you are suffering from sleep apnea, or suspect that you may be, why not come in to discuss how atlas orthogonal adjustments can help you. For many, this kind of chiropractic care has proven to be a safe, cost-effective and gentle solution to sleep apnea. Even if your only symptom is daytime tiredness, we would be happy to work with you to get to the source of the problem and resolve it so you can start feeling great again.