The Herbal Treatment for

Sleep Apnea By Steven Frank

lion Americans with likely millions more un- diagnosed sufferers. The condition prevents the sleeper from entering REM and Delta sleep causing them to become anxious, cantankerous and tired during the day. There are very serious health consequences of pro- longed sleep disturbance and deprivation.


When diagnosed, the patient is told to lose weight, drink less alcohol and quit smoking. Beyond that, surgery is offered, though it is painful and has provided only limited success. Dental mouth-pieces can be diffi cult to sleep with and long-term ef- fects on tooth alignment are questionable. Another common option is CPAP. This is a forced air mask, worn during sleep, that insures proper inhalation. Experience has shown that 60% of patients are not able to tolerate the mask and ultimately discontinue using the equipment. Some users develop respiratory infections from the mask. Finally, there is an herbal and natural approach that we can explore.

What Causes Sleep Apnea? Before we evaluate the “solutions”,

let’s consider what is causing the condi- tion. When we begin to fall asleep, we move from stage one (drowsiness) into stage two sleep. Stage two sleep is the transition stage before entering REM (rapid eye movement). REM sleep is where we dream. Dreaming is critical to a good night’s sleep. When we enter stage two sleep in preparation for dreaming, mus- cular activity is inhibited (blocked). It is

leep apnea is one of the most com- mon sleep disturbance problems in America. It ruins the sleep of 25 mil-

called “reduction of muscle tonus”. This is a function that occurs primarily to keep the dreamer from physically acting out the movements of their dreams.

The fi rst problem is that the inhi- bition of signals from the brain tends (inadvertently) to reduce the signal that tells the diaphragm to breathe. In some individuals, upon entering stage 2 sleep, the breathing will actually come to a stop (Sleep Apnea means cessation of breath- ing.) As breathing becomes shallower, the blood oxygen level drops and the carbon dioxide levels rise. In a young and healthy individual, this would elicit stronger and deeper breathing from the physiological control system that regulates these activi- ties. In an older individual the respira- tion reduces in intensity and the blood oxygenation drops. This is where the safety back-up system comes in. When the blood gas levels get too far imbalanced, the brain intervenes and causes the body

to make a large and immediate inhalation. This causes a large pressure differential in the pharynx and literally sucks the sagging-soft palate into the airway. This obstructs the air fl ow and causes a loud “SNORT” partially or fully awakening the subject. Most times, the subject is not fully awakened and thus isn’t aware that this is even happening. It still disturbs their sleep enough so that they return to stage 1 sleep.

Upon awakening or returning to stage 1 sleep, the inhibition causing the reduction of muscle tonus for entry into stage two sleep is released and respira- tion begins again in a somewhat normal manner. As the subject starts to drift off to sleep again, they move into stage two, the muscle tonus drops, the soft palate sags, the signal to the diaphragm diminish and the cycle repeats. The resulting snorting awakenings typically occur every 1 to 5 minutes or so.

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