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Sleep Apnea. The ‘Almost’ Invisible Sickness

An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea.

Many people with sleep apnea are overweight, but it does affect slim people
as well. Even children are not immune. Children with enlarged tonsils are prone to developing obstructive sleep apnea. Watch a short video from the  National Heart Lung and Blood Institute on what happens during sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Structural narrowing of the pharynx plays a critical role in most, if not all cases of obstructive sleep apnea (John Remmers. M.D. – the Harvard-trained physician who coined the term “Obstructive Sleep Apnea“). Dr. Remmers believes that this is due to the upper and lower jaws being recessed in the face, usually as a consequence of childhood mouth breathing and/or teeth removal with orthodontic ‘correction’.

During sleep the soft tissues around the throat and soft palate relax and collapse, further narrowing the airway. This means your breathing either stops (apnea), or there is a reduction in airflow (hypopnea) with accompanying fluctuations in blood oxygen levels throughout the night.

Sleep Apnea sufferers typically also experience:

  • snoring
  • dry mouth and throat
  • restless legs syndrome – excessive restlessness during sleep
  • mouth breathing
  • waking up tired and feeling tired during the day – often falling asleep in meetings or 
    dozing off when driving
  • poor daytime concentration
  • breathlessness on exertion

Breathing Retraining for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Most people who can learn to breathe through their nose at night, and reduce their breathing volume day and night, will eliminate snoring altogether.

If you have OSA then you may require an orthodontic consultation to assess for structural narrowing of the pharynx. This may then require correction in order to get permanent relief of OSA. The use of CPAP and intra-oral devices are not cures for the structural and physiological problems causing OSA but they will prevent nightly apnea episodes in most cases, you might also benefit from using a CPAP Pillow. If you are already using a CPAP device, you will find this article about CPAP Cleaner very useful.

The risks sleep apnea poses to long term health and longevity are too great to ignore.

Chronic Hyperventilation Frequently Overlooked

Chronic hyperventilation, or Hyperventilation Syndrome, is so commonly misdiagnosed, it has been referred to as a silent epidemic. An estimated 5-10% of us are chronic over-breathers, so breathing problems are certainly not rare, but getting help for them is often difficult because of a lack of recognition.

Symptoms of chronic hyperventilation include air hunger or a feeling of being unable to take a deep breath; frequent sighing or yawning; tingling in the hands or around the mouth; dizziness and confusion; a racing heart often with chest pain; poor exercise tolerance and muscle fatigue; disturbed sleep.

The symptoms described are not peculiar to chronic hyperventilation and they can mimic other issues such as heart problems. This is perhaps why people with these symptoms can go from doctor to doctor searching for answers. Hyperventilation Syndrome was referred to by Dr. Claude Lum, a British chest physician who specialized in this area, as “fat file syndrome” because by the time sufferers reached his door their case files were inches thick.

The symptoms of chronic hyperventilation are worrisome and warrant thorough investigation, but these usually turn out to be normal and the sufferer is left wondering what is wrong with them. Doctors often tell their patients it is an anxiety problem, treatable with anti-anxiety medication. This might numb the symptoms for awhile but it does little to treat the underlying mechanism that is causing the problem.

Hyperventilation Syndrome is often preceded by a stressful event or an ongoing, high-pressure lifestyle. People who use their voice a lot – teachers, news anchors, actors, singers – are especially prone to chronic hyperventilation. Greg Storkan, an opera singer in Chicago describes his problems with Hyperventilation Syndrome. “I will have to stop practicing for a time because my entire face has gone numb, as well as my hands and knees.”

Symptoms can arise at any age, (the twenties and thirties being the most common) and they usually come and go but get worse over time.

Treatment for chronic hyperventilation involves learning breathing strategies aimed at  reducing the volume of air breathed. With effective breathing re-training and stress management, symptoms should cease or rarely occur. However, clinics that specialize in treating breathing disorders are scarce and consequently we get inquiries from people all over the world who are looking for help.

How the Buteyko Breathing Method Relieves Asthma

The Buteyko Breathing Method has been shown to relieve and prevent asthma symptoms in several clinical trials. There is also substantial anecdotal evidence (to support the widespread use of this method for managing asthma) from the thousands of people who have used Buteyko around the world and who now no longer suffer from asthma symptoms. How does the Buteyko Breathing Method relieve asthma?

The breathing volume of people with asthma has been well studied, and as a group, people with asthma have been found to have elevated breathing volumes. That is, they breathe too much, the clinical term for which is chronic hyperventilation.

In 1968 a study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine which showed that all of the asthma patients (101) that were studied had chronic hyperventilation (over-breathing), with an average breathing volume of 15 liters of air per minute. This is three times what is considered to be a normal breathing volume which is 3-5 liters of air per minute, at rest.


In 1995, a study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (Johnson et al, 1995) which confirmed these earlier findings (a breathing volume of approximately 15 liters per minute) for another group of people with asthma.


In 1998, the Australian Medical Journal (Bowler et al, 1998), reported a study which found an average breathing volume of 14 liters per minute in 39 people with asthma.

Why should it matter that people with asthma have chronic hyperventilation?


When we over-breathe we blow off too much carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 has many important functions within the body and we need to retain a certain amount of it in order to function well.

Carbon dioxide deficiency results in excitation of the cholinergic nerve. This nerve is responsible for the tone of the smooth muscle within the body. Our airways are lined with smooth muscle and when the cholinergic nerve is stimulated it causes smooth muscle (airways, bladder, blood vessels, for example) to constrict.

It is well-substantiated that hyperventilation results in airway constriction. Thankfully, the opposite mechanism also applies – hypoventilation, or reducing the breathing volume, retains CO2, and this in turn causes dilation, or widening, of the airways and other vessels that are lined with smooth muscle.

Professor Konstantin Buteyko investigated the link between hyperventilation and asthma in the 1950’s. He noticed that when he instructed his patients with asthma to breathe less, they gained relief from their asthma symptoms.

At least part of this hypoventilation-asthma relief effect is thought to be due to the relaxing of the airways via the mechanism just discussed. But, there are probably other factors that come into play.

Hyperventilation is part of the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. When we breathe heavy all the time the immune system becomes very sensitive to intruders (it is on high-alert) and so when allergens or specific triggers are inhaled or ingested by people with asthma, the immune system goes into over-drive to deal with them. It generates an inflammatory response which is very familiar to those who suffer with asthma – mucus production, cough, wheeze, anxiety, panic.


The Buteyko Breathing Method relieves asthma by reversing chronic hyperventilation. If someone with asthma can bring their breathing volume down to normal levels on a permanent basis then asthma symptoms may no longer be triggered and medication may not be required (although any decision to alter any medication must always occur in consultation with a medical practitioner).

This is how the Buteyko Breathing Method relieves asthma symptoms.It can be learned with the help of a well-trained and experienced Buteyko educator. Results should be noticed within only a few days although it usually takes a few months of daily practice for permanent asthma relief to occur.

CPAP Pillow Review And Best Buying Guide

A CPAP pillow might just be the solution for those sleepless nights, are you waking up tired and sleepy, perhaps low in energy? this buying guide will help you choose the best CPAP pillow for you. If you also have CPAP equipement that needs cleaning, I strognly recommend that you read our in-depth article on CPAP Cleaner.

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