Sleep apnea affects an estimated 22 million Americans. Sleep apnea is diagnosed generally after a sleep study that reveals the person’s breathing stops momentarily, multiple times per night. Several common treatment choices include the use of a CPAP, a mouth appliance, surgery, losing weight, avoiding sleeping on your back, taking medications or supplements and quitting smoking.
Gaining popularity is getting acupuncture treatments to help. In a meta-analysis done in 2015, it was found that acupuncture was as effective, and even more effective in some of the studies, than use of a CPAP. A meta-analysis means they took all the research on a particular subject (in this case sleep apnea), used only standardized collection methods, threw out any studies that weren’t done with stringent enough protocols and only used the best of the best studies. Further, they assessed the studies using a tool called Cochrane Collaboration, meaning they reviewed and discarded any that had a possible bias that the original researchers may have had.
The meta-analysis concluded that acupuncture was an extremely beneficial option for the treatment of sleep apnea. Acupuncture treatments improved the apnea hypopnea index and the SaO2 levels in the blood. These measurements are a standard in demonstrating successful treatment of apnea.
So when would you use acupuncture instead of other treatment methods? For those who find that the mask used for the CPAP machine is cumbersome, those who are sensitive to either the medications used to help or the medications used to counteract the sleepiness due to sleep apnea, or those who would prefer not to do any surgical intervention. Many sufferers prefer a more natural approach to helping and others simply want to take care of the problem that caused sleep apnea in the first place. That’s my favorite reason.
Sleep apnea can be caused by being overweight. Acupuncture can help with that. Sleep apnea can be caused from smoking cigarettes. Acupuncture is super effective for addictions, including smoking. Sleep apnea can be caused by swelling of the uvula or enlarged tonsils. Acupuncture can help with the underlying causes of those conditions. Acupuncture can also help with many sleep disorders.
Sleep apnea can also be caused by collapse or an overly relaxed state of the muscles of the throat, mouth or tongue. Acupuncture and nutrition can help improve tone of muscles. I like that acupuncturists review everything going on with your body and treat all things collectively. We treat you and your body, not just your symptoms. So, you may have a main goal of eliminating your sleep apnea, but gain the additional benefit of remedying other things at the same time.
If you like to breathe, you like to sleep, and you like to breathe correctly while you sleep, acupuncture may be just what the doctor ordered!
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Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’Alene clinic. Visit Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.