Can a Chin Strap Effectively Replace CPAP?

Perhaps you’ve seen the advertisements selling a chin strap to treat sleep apnea. A chin strap. To treat sleep apnea. Really? But does it work? Some people claim that it helps them. Others say it’s a scam. Which is it? Let’s take a no spin look at this, shall we?

The Chin Strap
Chin Strap
Women Wearing Chin Strap

Cpap remains the gold standard of therapy for sleep apnea. But unfortunately, many people can’t tolerate this form of treatment. The good news is, there are other forms of treatment available. One such device in the news recently is the chin strap. And while not new, it appears to have a ‘new’ function. It not only holds your mouth closed but claims it will keep your airway open as well.

But does it live up to its claim? Let’s take a no spin look into this. We’ll also see how it compares to other forms of treatment.

To begin with, there are several different styles of chin straps. But they all do 2 basic things: they hold your mouth closed, and support your jaw so it stays in place. With that, we’ll look at what holding your mouth closed does and doesn’t do. But first, let’s see why holding your mouth closed is actually healthier for you.

Mouth Breathing is bad for Your Health

When you breathe through your mouth, the air isn’t warmed and moisturized like it is with nasal breathing. This causes dry mouth, which encourages bacteria growth, leading to cavities. Nasal breathing not only warms and moisturizes the air, it also acts as a filter, reducing dust and allergens.

Also, when you breathe through your nose, Nitric Oxide is produced in small quantities. This gas actually makes you absorb more oxygen, which is even more important while you’re sleeping. This is because your breathing becomes slower and shallower in your sleep.

Keep in mind that many people see their Dentist more than their Doctor. Therefore it’s usually the Dentist that notices mouth breathing issues. Additionally, mouth breathing in children can actually cause abnormal facial and dental development.

However, holding your mouth closed by itself does not keep your airway open. But if you’re using cpap, and you can’t tolerate a full face mask, and you breathe with your mouth, a chin strap can be a good addition to your treatment.

Although, there are times when holding your mouth closed isn’t good.

When not to use a Chin Strap

Because a chin strap holds your mouth closed, you really shouldn’t use one if you have sinus congestion or anything else that makes it difficult to breathe just through your nose.

Also, a chin strap will only reduce snoring coming from your throat. There’s a flap of skin at the back of your throat called the soft palate. Air flowing across that can cause it to vibrate, resulting in a snore. A chin strap will have some effect in this case. However, it will have no effect on snoring originating from your sinuses.

Additionally, if you suspect that you have sleep apnea, or have been diagnosed with OSA, a chin strap might not be effective at all. Some symptoms to be aware of are:

  • Waking with a headache
  • Being REALLY tired all the time
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Snoring and/or pauses in breathing
  • Waking up choking

If you have any of these symptoms, you might have sleep apnea and should have a sleep study.

However, the chin strap also supports your jaw, keeping it from falling back against your throat. So you’d think that it would do some good,. right? But a study done on 26 adult patients with OSA, found that a chin strap alone was not effective in treating sleep apnea. Granted, this is a rather small study.

But what about oral appliances? Don’t they do the same thing as a chin strap? How do these 2 devices compare?

Let’s take a look.

Chin Strap vs Oral Appliance

Chin Strap Vs Oral ApplianceA chin strap holds your mouth closed, while oral appliances don’t to the same degree. And while both the chin strap and the oral appliance hold your jaw forward, oral appliances have been proven to do this more effectively.

So even though a chin strap is less expensive than an oral appliance, it’s also less effective. But please be aware, because while you can get cheap oral appliances online, they won’t work as well either. Why’s that? Because the most effective oral appliance is the one fitted and adjusted just for you. These types of oral appliances are adapted to you, preferably in a sleep lab, where the Technologist can fine-tune them to get you breathing well.

However, you can’t use an oral appliance if you have dentures or loose/missing teeth. So if that’s you, and you also can’t tolerate CPAP, talk with your Doctor. There are surgical procedures that may help.

Now let’s take a brief look at cost.

Cost Comparisons

CPAP can run anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500.

On the other hand, an Oral Appliance can range from $1,800 to$2,000. And oral appliances are favored over CPAP. Also, most insurance companies cover these devices. Of course, you can get less expensive devices online for Less than $50.00. But as we’ve seen, this really isn’t a good option.

Cost of Anti Snoring Chin Strap? Anywhere from $6.99 at Walmart, up to $59.99.

So then…

Is a Chin Strap right for me?

Remeber, there’s a difference between simple snoring, and snoring with sleep apnea. Talk with your Doctor about any concerns you have before buying anything.

And again, the cost is certainly a concern for most of us. Therefore there’s a tendency to take the cheapest route. So why not just buy a chin strap or oral appliance and be done with it. But is it that easy? If you haven’t even been diagnosed with sleep apnea, how do you know you’re giving yourself the right treatment?

Maybe all you do is snore.  But, where is your snoring originating from? Is it from the soft palate, that flap of skin at the back of your throat? Or is it coming from your sinus area? Or both? And what if your snoring is a sign of something worse, like sleep apnea?

And if you live alone, you have no one to tell you what you do in your sleep. Maybe you’ve woke yourself up snoring or snorting. If that’s the case, don’t take any chances with a simple chin strap or cheap oral appliance. That’s the time to have a talk with your Doctor.

Suspect sleep apnea especially if you have certain body characteristics that make you more likely to have OSA. The physical characteristics that you inherit make it either more or less likely that you’ll have this disorder. The 3 main physical traits are the shape of the bony structures of the skull and face, body fat distribution, and how the upper airway muscles function.

So then, CPAP machines and oral appliances are more expensive, but they also work the best. And while chin straps do serve a purpose, they work better in conjunction with CPAP.

Conclusion

We’ve taken a look at the chin strap, and also compared it with other devices for sleep apnea. We’ve discovered that the chin strap is limited in its function. And while there’s a tendency to ‘go the cheap route’, when it comes to your health, please don’t play with your life like that.

Till next time…Blessings.

Is a Home Sleep Test as Good as an in lab Sleep Test?

What is a Home Sleep Test, and is it as good as in lab sleep test?

Home Sleep Test

It’s exciting to see the advancements in sleep medicine.  Along with all the changes taking place in the insurance industry, Technology, and the economy in general. Many of these developments are changing how sleep studies are performed. For instance, a Home Sleep Test is becoming more common.

So, let’s take a rather brief look at a Home Sleep Test, and see how it compares with an in lab sleep study.

About Insurance

First of all, insurance is a major player in sleep medicine. And in order to keep premiums down, insurance companies push for the least expensive tests. The reason behind this is that the less the insurance company pays out, the lower your premiums will be; which makes sense. There’s also the economic pressure to keep costs down.

Now consider that one Technologist can do two, maybe three in lab sleep studies at a time. However, that same Technologist can handle more Home sleep tests at once. And a Home Sleeps test, or HST doesn’t cost as much. So you can see where this trend is going.

But, are HST’s as good as in lab sleep tests? Let’s first take a look at the type of sleep tests available. Then we’ll look at a typical Home Sleep Study. We’ll also compare costs and see who can have an HST. I’ll also explain why some people shouldn’t have an HST; in fact, can’t even qualify for one.

Types of Sleep Tests

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS defines 4 types of sleep studies, based on what’s being monitored. A type 1 study is an in lab sleep study,  attended by a Technologist. This has been the gold standard of sleep tests, as it’s the most thorough.

Types 2-4 are home studies. These studies are defined by the number of channels recorded. Type 2 studies record more channels than type 3 studies. While type 4 studies record the fewest channels. And while an in lab study can test for a whole range of sleep disorders, an HST only monitors breathing.

Another downside to an HST is that something can come unhooked during the night while you’re sleeping. And that could make the study incomplete.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a typical Home Sleep Test.

A Typical Home Sleep Test

You go into the sleep center the evening of your study and pick up the equipment needed for the night. The Technologist will go over everything with you; showing you how to put things on, and should answer your questions.

Then, in the comfort of your own home, you hook yourself up and (hopefully) go to sleep. In the morning, you bring the equipment back to the sleep center, where they’ll download your data. If it’s determined that you need CPAP, you’ll be set up with what’s called an auto-PAP machine. This type of device is set to automatically change pressures through the night based on how you’re breathing.

You can keep the auto-pap. But you might also have the option to get a CPAP machine. In that case, you’ll bring the auto-pap in and they’ll download the data. Then they’ll  use that to determine your optimal pressure. And they’ll give you a CPAP machine set to your best therapy level.

Other Home Sleep Test Information

Cost of a Home Sleep Test vs an in lab study

An in lab study can run anywhere from $600, to $5,000; with an average being around $1,000. However, a Home Sleep Test runs anywhere from $150 to $500. And insurance covers both.

Who should not have an HSAT?

A Home Sleep Test just monitors breathing. Therefore, it only detects sleep apnea, but none of the other sleep disorders. That’s why a careful assessment of your medical history is important. For example, if you have any heart or lung conditions, you might need an in lab study.

Other reasons you might need an in lab study

If your Doctor suspects you might have some other sleep disorder, he/she could order an in lab study. And anyone 18 years and younger would need an in lab study as well.

So, While A Home Sleep Test is becoming more common, it’s not for everyone. And even with all the advancements in sleep medicine, there might always be a place for in-lab sleep studies.

Conclusion

We’ve taken a rather brief look at a Home sleep test. We’ve seen the advantages of an HST. And also discovered why a Home Sleep Test isn’t for everyone. We’ve also seen why this type of test might become more common in the future.

How about you? Have you had a Home Sleep Study?  Would you like to share your experience? Or do you have questions about HST’s vs in lab studies? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Till next time…Blessings.

what Happens While You’re Sleeping?

While you’re sleeping.

In this article, I give a brief history of the evolution of sleep studies. I’ll  also take a little peek into the future and think about what’s to come. SleepingSo keep in touch, as I’ll be adding on to this information, and more, as I continue to study this fascinating field.

Of Rabbits and Monkeys

Researcher’s in the 1700’s demonstrated that living tissue has electrical properties. This paved the road for further work into recording brain activity, known as electroencephalography, or EEG. And by the mid-1800’s scientists were hooking up electrodes to the heads of rabbits and monkeys. Thus making the first recordings of brainwaves.

Where We’ve Been

It was 1925 when Dr. Hans Berger plugged a person in and recorded the first human EEG. Up until this time, sleeping was thought of as a state of unconsciousness; a merely passive process where we just rested. Now, however, sleeping is known to be a very active state; with a number of things going on.

Then in the 1950’s, Dr. William C. Dement, considered the father of sleep medicine, conducted the first sleep studies. These studies identified the different sleep stages and the discovery of REM sleep.

Sleeping
Man hooked up for a sleep study

However, sleep studies weren’t very popular in those early days. Not only because medical science had not yet embraced this field as something even worth noting. But researchers had to stay up all night and monitor a sleeping person. Yet, in spite of all that, the field grew. With more sensors being added as we learned what to look for. And that evolved into what we see in the sleep lab today.

In 1965, Obstructive Sleep Apnea was first described. And treatment for sleep apnea at that time was a tracheotomy. A tracheotomy involves making a surgical opening through your neck into your windpipe; thus allowing you to breathe.

And in 1978 a small group of sleep professionals met, with the goal of forming an organization; now known as the American Association of Sleep Technologists, or AAST. One of the first things they did was create an education and examination board; known as the  Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists or  BRPT. Together, these organizations provide us sleep professionals with standardized testing as well as ongoing training.

But it wasn’t until 1981 that Dr. Collin Sullivan, from Sydney Australia, invented the first CPAP machine. This revolutionized the treatment of sleep apnea. And advancements in both diagnosing and treating the various sleep disorders continues.

Where We’re Going

The gold standard for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea is an in lab overnight sleep study. However, insurance companies are now giving the O.K. For home sleep testing, or HST’s. However, most HST’s can’t determine when you’re sleeping; they only monitor breathing. Therefore, they’re not very accurate in evaluating sleep disorders. However, further advancements could change that.

One of the ways this might come about is with the advancements in smart homes. Imagine downloading the sleep lab app, and apply whatever type of device we’ll have by then, and presto! An in lab quality sleep study done in the comfort of your own home, complete with live monitoring 24/7! And then, of course, your in-home follow up Doctor visit via the internet.

As a Sleep Technologist, I see the field evolving before my eyes. It’s quite exciting to think about where we’ll be in 10-20 years; and beyond. And being a Star Trek fan, I imagine (in the far future) sleep studies being conducted on a holodeck. Even though that technology might, realistically, be impossible, it’s fun to imagine.

And of course just keeping the public up to date via the internet or other forms of media is critical. Knowledge is power. And a well-informed public is more likely to access the help that they need. For us Sleep Technologists, this means keeping up with advancements in sleep medicine and taking on the role of educator.

Conclusion

Up til now, we’ve taken a rather short journey into the history of sleep studies. We’ve seen how our ideas of sleeping have changed. As well as took a look at where we could be going. I’m doing ongoing research and will share with you some of the highlights of this fascinating field.

If you have any questions or concerns about the ever-expanding field of sleep studies and how it might impact you, please leave a comment below.

Till next time…Blessings.

How Exercise can Help you Sleep Better

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard in order to gain something from it. You don’t even have to work up a sweat to get the benefit of a better nights sleep. And that’s what this article is all about. I’ll show you some easy exercises that can not only improve your sleep but also reduce both snoring and the severity of sleep apnea. And you don’t need any special equipment. How cool is that?

Sleeping in Space is Better

Astronauts report they sleep better in space. And some studies done on sleep in Earth orbit show an improvement of both obstructive breathing and snoring.

So while being in zero gravity, (or micro-gravity in Earth orbit), has its benefits, it comes with a price. You see, weightlessness does some things to your body that aren’t so nice. These effects include loss of muscle and bone mass; as well as a decrease in strength and endurance. Exposure to weightlessness also increases your risk of Kidney stones.

However, these effects are reversible once you return to Earth. This is because gravity provides the resistance our bodies need to maintain health.

exercise
Astronaut Sleeping on board the International Space Station

Thus, when we’re weightless, we can sleep better, but our bodies deteriorate more quickly. Yet while on Earth, our sleep is worse, but our bodies deteriorate more slowly.

Therefore, zero gravity is ideal for sleep. Yet, while we’re awake and actually doing things, we need gravity; something we can push against, or our bodies weaken. Gravity is good in that it gives our bodies the resistance it needs for health. But at the same time, it causes lower quality sleep; with an increase in the severity of OSA. Too bad we all couldn’t have a zero-G chamber to sleep in.

Anyway, that’s why astronauts need exercise to provide the resistance their bodies need while in space. But even us Earthlings can benefit from a proper workout.

Better Sleep for us Earthlings

We know that we need some resistance just to maintain a semblance of health. But again it’s all about balance, neither too little or too much. Remember, we’re not talking about muscle building exercise here, we just want to improve our sleep. And in that case, not only the type of exercise but the timing of the exercise is important. Not only that, but you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment. In fact, you can get by without any equipment!

There’s actually a bit of a debate as to the best time of the day to exercise. Some reports say it’s best right after you get up. Although other studies show that people who exercise before going to bed benefit as much as those who worked out right after they woke up. So maybe it’s really based on what works best for you.

Let’s start with a walk. Even a stroll as short as 20 minutes can be beneficial. And if the sun’s out, you can get your daily dose of vitamin D as well. And by the way, a deficiency of vitamin D  leads to osteoporosis, increases your risk of heart disease, and makes you more susceptible to cancer; so it’s kinda good to have enough of that vitamin available.

But walking can also reduce the severity of OSA. Here’s how.

Fluid accumulates in your legs during the day. Then at night, when you lay down, that fluid shifts to your upper body/neck. This makes sleep apnea worse. Lack of exercise encourages the fluid build up in your legs. Therefore, regular brisk walks can reduce the severity of OSA. And the longer and more frequent the walk, the greater reduction in OSA.

However, walks outside, sun or no sun, aren’t always possible. Sometimes the weather just doesn’t co-operate.

Other Types of Exercise

Any physical activity that increases your heart rate is good. But you don’t want to increase your heart rate too much. So if you’re feeling a little more oomph, there’s a target zone you should shoot for. Click here for an interactive target heart rate zone calculator. Some good cardio exercises include: Walking, riding a bike, running, swimming and jumping rope. But if you have an injury, consult your healthcare professional before doing any type of exercise.

Sleep apnea some of your problem? Did you know there are exercises you can do that reduce snoring as well as the severity of obstructive sleep apnea? Let’s look at a couple of these.

Speech Therapy Training strengthens your upper airway. studies show these types of exercises significantly reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.

exercise
Aboriginal man playing a Didgeridoo

You can either get yourself a digeridoo which can effectively strengthen your upper airway. Or you can try the following upper airway strengthening exercises. But be patient, it could take a few months of being consistent before you began to see any results. So hang in there. But, yes, these exercises have been proven to reduce both snoring and the severity of sleep apnea.

Ain’t Gonna Happen

I know how it is, even if you have the energy, and the time, other things can still get in the way. And good intentions alone usually don’t get very far. You need to not only plan to exercise but actually write down specifics. Put it on your calendar. Set realistic goals, and write them down. It’s been proven that people who write down their goals are 80% or more successful than those who don’t.

But what if you really do want to exercise, but just don’t have the energy?

I’m too Exhausted to Exercise

“If I could get more sleep, I’d have more energy, and then, maybe I could exercise.” And really, when you’re truly exhausted, just the thought of any kind of exercise can be overwhelming. Especially if exhaustion has now led to depression.

When people think of exercise or ‘working out’, thoughts of hard physical effort usually come to mind. But as you’ve seen, exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous in order to be beneficial. Remember, we’re not talking about working out to get physically fit, the goal is to get a better nights sleep.

So if nothing else, a good walk on a sunny day can be just what the Doctor ordered. And if you have sleep apnea, you can work on those upper airway muscles at the same time. Weather permitting, of course. But, don’t feel bad, or be hard on yourself if some days you really just can’t do anything, even if the weather’s co-operating.

Conclusion

We’ve seen how exercise can help you not only sleep better but can also reduce snoring and the severity of sleep apnea. We’ve looked at some specific exercises needed for this purpose; as well as how setting goals and writing them down will increase your chance of success.

If you have any exercises you do, or some success story you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

Till next time…Blessings.