Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Important Reason to Breathe Through Your Nose

In an article about the importance of form and function with regard to the face, one interesting point that was made was the fact the our noses (mostly our sinuses) make nitric oxide (NO), a gas that acts as a powerful vasodilator. When inhaled into the lungs, it promotes oxygen uptake. This is why we're told when running to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. What this implies is that if you're a chronic mouth breather, you may be depriving yourself of oxygen.

Searching further on Pubmed revealed an interesting study: humming increased nasal production of NO 15 fold as compared with quite breathing. They hypothesized that oscillating nasal breathing as a result of humming could explain this process. It's also interesting to note that rapid short nasal breathing taught in yoga classes may have a similar effect.

I strongly recommend that you read the entire article (it's a little long). It's an interesting read about how poor development of our facial bones could be leading to many of our medical ailments today. I can't agree with everything stated in the article, but I do agree with most of the article and the basic fundamental arguments. It parallels and supports all the major concepts that I discuss in my forthcoming book, Sleep, Interrupted. It also references Dr. Weston Price's book, which I use as a one of the foundations for my book.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Why Women Can't Sleep in Menopause

An article in WebMD reports on a research study showing that difficulty sleeping was the most common complaint among post-menopausal women. The study recruited 110 women and asked them to rate the severity or persistence of the following symptoms: hot flashes, day sweats, night sweats, vaginal dryness, sleep difficulties, mood issues and forgetfulness. Trouble sleeping came in as the most common complaint, followed by forgetfulness, hot flashes and irritability. Based on what I’ve been talking about from my sleep-breathing paradigm, this is not too surprising. I’ve always said that many of the common symptoms of menopause are sleep-breathing disturbances. The one missing link in all the studies, commentaries and articles on menopause is the inability for women to breathe properly at night as a direct result of increasing tongue muscle relaxation during menopause.

Progesterone is one hormone that has been shown to promote tongue muscle tone, and the slow decrease during the menopause years can produce the common symptoms of menopause. So it’s not a direct result of dropping menopause levels, but worsening upper airway patency leading to more frequent micro-obstruction and arousals, preventing deep sleep. I’ve written in the past about young men coming to me complaining about night sweats, hot-flashes, mood swings, irritability, weight gain and insomnia. These men were slowly gaining weight, progressing up the sleep-breathing continuum. The gradual narrowing of their upper airways due to increased fat deposits in the throat can lead to a generalized nervous system reaction, leading the night sweats, hot-flashes, mood-swings, etc. So as you can see, many of the common symptoms of menopause are not exclusive to women.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Migraines Linked to Stroke and Heart Attacks in Women

An interesting study in the January 2008 issue of Cephalagia revealed that women who had migraines more than once per week had nearly three times higher risk of ischemic stroke and 1.5 times more risk of heart attack as compared to women without migraines. Even having migraines once per month or less was associated with a 1.5 times increased risk of stroke or heart attack. The authors state that further research is needed to determine if migraine prevention reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

My feeling is that even if migraines were controlled with aggressive dietary modifications and pharmacologic agents, there will be minimal to no improvement in the incidence of the risk of heart attack or stroke. My logic is as follows: Migraine is a common feature in people with sleep-breathing disorders. It's especially more common in women (and men) who have upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), which is a variation/precursor of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is known to be linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. In my experience, allowing people to sleep better (by breathing better at night) usually improves migraines, as well as the effects of OSA. So covering up a migraine headache with medications will not address the cause, which is inefficient sleep due to breathing problems at night. I discuss the reasons for this in detail in my forthcoming book, Sleep, Interrupted.