Ask The Sleep Doctor

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My wife has sleep apnea. It is severe and she has coronary disease. Our doctor wants her to be treated. She had an oral appliance made but it did not work. She refuses to wear a CPAP mask. I read that a recent study showed marijuana could treat sleep apnea. Is this true?

A:

It was a preliminary study that used Dronabinol, a synthetic form of marijuana, for sleep apnea. While it got a lot of press, the results were encouraging, but not definitive. Although several patients showed a significant improvement, overall the number of respiratory events dropped by an average of only two per hour. More studies will need to be performed before we can recommend for or against this treatment.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is it true that sleep apnea can increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents? My husband tells me he has been pulling off the roads to take a nap about once a week on the way home. He is a loud snorer and I have observed periods when he is not breathing.

A:

Yes, it is true. Several studies have shown that the risk of motor vehicle accidents is two to three times normal in people with sleep apnea. I would urge your husband to discuss his sleepiness and your observations with his health care provider or sleep doctor. It is far preferable to becoming part of a statistic.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My dad had a heart attack two weeks ago. He had been diagnosed with sleep apnea a few years ago but refused therapy. Could this seriously affect his future health?

A:

Yes, in fact a recent VA study addressed just this issue. Patients who were admitted with cardiovascular issues and refused to treat their sleep apnea were three times more likely to be readmitted in the first 30 days for subsequent cardiovascular complications.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My 7-year-old grandson is extremely overweight; recently his pediatrician has noted his blood pressure to be high for his age. He stayed at our house and I noticed he snored every night. I brought this to my daughter and son-in-law’s attention but they did not think it was worth mentioning to their pediatrician. What do you think?

A:

I think you are one very smart and observant grandma. Several recent studies have shown that the incidence of pediatric sleep apnea increases from about 4% to 50% in obese children. Even more important, the sleep apnea predisposes these children to premature high blood pressure, as well as metabolic dysfunction such as premature diabetes. I would strongly impress upon your children to bring the snoring to their pediatrician’s attention.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, D.O., FCCP, DABSM

Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, is the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Arizona and sleep medicine consultant for Mountain Heart Health Services in Flagstaff, Arizona. Dr. Rosenberg is board certified in sleep medicine, pulmonary medicine, and internal medicine. His book Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day  is a best seller. Dr Rosenberg’s latest book is The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety. Visit Dr Rosenberg’s website WWW.AnswersForSleep.com which is a wealth of information on sleep topics.

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