My world of modern medicine and my world of the Paleo lifestyle can, and must blend together to achieve ultimate health. Your world should to. Most assume you have to be overweight and snore like a freight train to have sleep apnea and that is just not true. As many as 1/3 of OSA patients are normal weight, and as many as 1/3 do not snore significantly. The main cause of this disease is a small airway that is susceptible to collapse during the normal relaxation process of sleep. If you assume you because you are slim, trim, and fit there is no way you could have it…think again.
Two studies came out earlier this week linking untreated sleep apnea with an increased risk of cancer. This is pretty amazing and as a Board Certified Sleep Specialist I find it very exciting. Sleep apnea is already clearly recognized to have an association with obesity, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and even asthma. As if those were not impressive enough, now we can add cancer to the list.
You want real numbers? One study showed that people with significant breathing problems at night (otherwise known as sleep disordered breathing) were 4.8 TIMES more likely to deveolop cancer thoughout their lifetime than those without SDB. Did you just read that?
As a Paleo community we tend to think that we can control our own destiny healthwise by eating clean and exercising regularly. Well, two weeks ago I saw a 26 year old female, 5 foot 6, 120 pounds who was as symptomatic from the sleep apnea standpoint as possible. She did NOT snore. She eats Paleo, and trains at crossfit regularly. Her sleep study showed significant sleep apnea and we placed her on CPAP therapy at night. She is lucky that her primary care provider is a thoughtful internist who refused to blame her fatigue on being a mother of two and waking early to exercise (as her prior doctor head). She is young, lean,fit…and has a serious disease linked with the long list of scary conditions above. Now she is being treated, and we are making her current symptoms and long term health better. That’s why I love sleep medicine!
What’s my point with all this? I know there is a general distrust of modern medicine among the Paleo community, and some of that is warrented. But, I urge all of you to pay attention to your bodies. If you are having symptoms that won’t go away, seek help.
More specifically, if you have trouble sleeping, see a well trained sleep physician to work out your problems. You HAVE to sleep to be at your best. Do you get sleepy in the afternoons? Ever wake up with a headache you did not go to sleep with? Do you wake up as tired as you went to bed? Have you been told you have “funny” breathing at night while you sleep? Sleepy at the wheel? Those are classic symptoms of sleep apnea. It all comes down to this though regardless of symptoms: Are you more tired or sleepy than you THINK you should be? If the answer is yes, take a long look at the list of conditions associated with sleep apnea and realize that these associations are real…no matter how good your diet is or how fit you are. Don’t settle for how you feel, you could pay the price later in life.
Learn to listen to your body. Are you just occasionally fatigued? Could you be overtraining? Take a well needed rest day or TWO! Something hurt worse or in a new way? Don’t injure further through ignorance of what is wrong! Are you always tired or sleepy? Are you ok as long as you are doing something, but have trouble staying awake or focused if you have some down time? Don’t take the risk…see a sleep doctor and get the right answers.