Summary: Sleep apnea continues to rob millions of African American women of sleep, which can lead to increased risk of several life-threatening conditions. With African Americans at greater risk of the disorder, the question is being asked; to what degree are African American women at risk?
Hundreds of times every night, millions of African American women stop breathing intermittently during sleep for as much as 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Other than the fatigue and lack of alertness, which are just the daily symptoms, most of those women are unaware that they suffer from a growing serious health risk known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
With long term health risks including a dramatically increased risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension and even some cancers, an increasing amount of statistical evidence from researchers and all quarters of the health continuum show that African Americans are at a greater risk for OSA. This supports the mounting evidence that an increasing percentage of African American women are at risk of the condition.
OSA and African American women
The severity of sleep apnea is measured in events per hour with the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). An AHI of less than 5 is considered normal. An AHI of 5-15 is mild; 15-30 is moderate and more than 30 events per hour are considered severe sleep apnea.
While the American Sleep Apnea Association says that about 70 percent of people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are overweight or obese, many women of color within normal weight parameters suffer from the disorder. However, a 2004 study sponsored by the National Institute of Health did find shared and unshared genetic factors that may affect the risk of both obesity and sleep apnea in African Americans.
Like most health conditions, OSA has not received the same level of study in African Americans and particularly African American women as with Caucasians. However, one of the first studies was profiled by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that showed middle aged, pre-menopausal African American women to be more likely to suffer from OSA symptoms than their white counterparts.
Although awareness of OSA in the African American community is growing, there continues to be a marked lack of women that take the initiative to be screened for the disorder. Melissa Bynes Brooks, the Clinical Coordinator of Broward Health Coral Springs Sleep Disorders Center and editor of Brooks Sleep Review recently penned an article with some startling statistics regarding African Americans and OSA. The article entitled
“Why Are Black People Dying in Their Sleep” discussed a community-based sample of 421 Black patients referred by their private care physicians where only 38 percent followed the recommendation for a sleep consultation.
Currently, the gold standard treatment for OSA is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP therapy requires the patient to wear a mask that is connected to a
CPAP machine that supplies a regulated stream of air to the sleeping patient. This serves to increase the flow of oxygen and reduce the apnea events as well as reduce the short-term and long-term health risks of OSA.
According to a recent study, 93 percent of women and 82 percent of men with moderate to severe OSA have not been clinically diagnosed. Research also shows that nearly 80 percent of African Americans suffer from sleep disorder symptoms. Of those African Americans that do get diagnosed and start CPAP therapy, compliance remains a significant roadblock.
A recent article urging African American CPAP Compliance was one of an increasing number urging them to utilize the life-saving therapy.
Spreading the good news for health
Famous African Americans are beginning to do their part as well. As part of the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine’s
expanded online OSA information repository on OSA, Shaquille O’Neal who suffers from sleep apnea, has included an informational video on the disorder aimed at African Americans.
OSA affects an estimated 15 million to 20 million Americans, as well as millions more who remain undiagnosed and untreated. Sleep apnea robs the body and the brain of sufficient oxygen, which in the short-term manifests itself in daytime sleepiness, fatigue, brain fog, and headaches. While these symptoms can clearly be improved for most people with OSA that utilize CPAP masks and machines, the brain itself can also be positively affected.
Although there are clearly many people and experts from all quarters sounding the alarm for African American women regarding OSA, the lack of significant widespread studies keeps the disorder off of the radar of the millions of black women that are living with the symptoms of OSA and the higher long-term health risks that it brings.
Outreach regarding the tools and tactics that benefit the health of African American women is clearly working overall as the life expectancy and overall health of this significant sector of society improves in many ways. Increased diligence and communication to spread the word regarding OSA is the key to helping African American women help themselves to lead healthier, longer, more productive and happier lives.
E. Victor Brown is a freelance writer specializing in health and health technology and its effects on the health of African Americans. His research and writing has covered Sleep Disorder Breathing, OSA and by extension, the technology and use of a CPAP Machine and CPAP Masks as part of effective therapy for African Americans and other populations.
I would like to offer you an opportunity to submit a guest post for The Warm Milk Journal. Our readership continues to grow and is now getting over 11,000 visitors from around the world a month. We have hundreds of followers on our Facebook page and at this writing, 16,461 people following us on Twitter.
I will share and market your post as much as I would my own. If your post is published here, I expect you to do the same.
A few guidelines:
1. Familiarize yourself with our site first. Our content is a bit eclectic. We welcome anything that supports living a well balanced life by day and sleeping restfully at night. Most posts are pretty short in length.
2. Sample topics may include anything to do with: insomnia, anxiety, health and wellness, journal writing, what makes us happy, how to relax and overcome stress, spirituality, meditation, poetry, travel, bedroom design and decor, etc.
3. People I would like to hear from: any person who is challenged and has solutions for above topics, people from the health and wellness industry, medical providers such as: doctors, nurses, counselors, yoga instructors, massage therapists, chiropractors, etc., hospitality industry (hotel managers or B&B owners), travel industry, mattress companies, sleep aid products, feng shui experts, etc.
4. Note, it is fine that you have a product or service but please offer content of value to our readership. I will not publish anything that is strictly a marketing piece.
5. Your submission needs to be an original post (not published on your own site or anywhere else).
6. Interested? Please email me: Debratech@msn.com. Attach your article via an editable Word document. You may include a brief bio, link to your site, and a photo you would like me to use.
This blogging journey has been a tremendously rewarding one. There is nothing like feeling passionate about something and sharing it with others. I feel very blessed to be sharing this experience with you. I am excited to see what comes of this. We are never alone and we can always learn from each other. I think it will be wonderful for you to be able to share here at The Warm Milk Journal and for our readership to enjoy new content from different voices.
I usually fall asleep pretty easily initially. I can, however, count on getting woken up at least once in the middle of the night due to my bladder, husband, cat, or a dream…
I find three things usually work to get me back to sleep as quick as possible.
1. Be as still as possible. Once I start fidgeting and tossing and turning it’s all over… (and I am awake)!
2. If I was in the middle of a dream before I woke up, I try to immerse myself back in the dream (providing the dream was not too scary or disturbing). This dream remembrance technique gets us back into that dreamy sleep state fast.
3. The third thing I like to do is a conscious breathing technique. It is very simple. When I inhale I think of a one syllable word and when I exhale I think of a one syllable word or sound.
inhale: “so”, exhale “hum”
inhale: “God’s”, exhale “love”
inhale: “peace”, exhale “peace”.
This keeps my mind focused on something neutral and prevents it from beginning to wander and churn about events of the day, my to do list, work, financial worries, etc.
I wish you a peaceful and restful night (all the way through the night)!
Well, my neck is still hurting me but I am confident that this pain and inflammation will subside. I am icing it and applying a good therapy gel on it. I did sleep a bit better last night..
There are times when pain keeps us awake at night. This morning, I wish to provide you with information on how to deal with some common physical conditions that affect our sleep. I hope this helps!
9. Hot flashes
Here’s to a restful and pain free night!
I have a pain in my neck. Yes, I really do. My young students have been a real handful lately but it’s not them. I’m not sure what I did. Perhaps I slept funny or pulled a muscle while at the gym. All I know is I have a very sharp pain on the right side of my neck that travels down to where my shoulder joins my neck and a little further down to my right shoulder blade as well.
I am not sharing this with you because I want you to feel sorry for me or to complain about it. The truth is, I haven’t slept well the last couple of nights because of this pain.
Here at the Warm Milk Journal we focus on the things that keep us centered and balanced by day so that we may sleep restfully at night. Good activities that we recommend are: exercise, writing in our journals, spending time outdoors, being loving towards ourselves and others, and nurturing our spiritual lives.
There are times, however, when we are sick or in pain. If physical conditions are keeping you awake at night you definitely want to see your doctor.
He or she might prescribe something to help with the pain and get you to sleep too. I personally am not taking medication for this pain (other than an ibuprofen). A muscle relaxer might be nice but I am weary of taking that kind of drug.
Besides taking medications that will help us sleep, what can we do when pain keeps us awake at night?
1. First, I recommend relaxing as much as possible about it. If we get ourselves hyped up and anxious about our pain, illness, and resulting insomnia, we will most certainly feel worst and lose even more sleep (been there, I KNOW).
2. Keep a healthy perspective: most ailments and physical conditions do not last forever. They will either run their course or you and your medical provider will get to the bottom of it and get you proper treatment.
3. If we lose a night or two of sleep, it is not the end of the world. The best thing we can do is relax and do our best during the day.
4. Be reminded of all the many blessings that we have so much of the time. Before a couple of nights ago, I did not realize how greatly blessed I was to have a pain-free neck. No kidding, right?
As much as possible, I wish us all a pain-free and restful night. If that is not possible at the moment, perhaps we can:
2. Take baths
4. Escape into a good movie or reality tv show (my 15 year old daughter and I have a date with this week’s Bachelor (which we recorded) and Orville Redenbacher’s gourmet white corn blended with real butter. Oh Yeah! Who is Sean going to send home? (pain in the neck? what pain in the neck)?!
In Peace (and hopefully pain-free soon)!
Being ourselves and living a life of integrity goes a long way towards living an anxiety free life and sleeping well at night.
How do we live a life integrity?
1. By being ourselves. If we are being phony or stuck in our people pleasing ways – we will not have peace within ourselves as a result. Hello sleepless nights!
2. Do what we say we are going to do. This is easier to do if we have not over committed ourselves in the first place.
3. Have love, honesty, and faith guide our compass.
4. Take responsibility for our actions. No blame game. A certain amount of peace comes when we mature enough to realize that we are in charge of our own lives. Blaming parents, spouses, jobs, the economy, etc. for our circumstances sets us up for disappointment, resentment, bitterness, rigidity, and terrible nights.
It doesn’t matter how comfy your mattress, linens, and pillows are.. or how early you turn in at night, if you are not right with your relationships.
We are social beings. I believe the most important life purpose we have is to be in relationship. If something is not right with our most important relationships, we will not sleep well; guaranteed!
Here at The Warm Milk Journal our wish for you is to sleep well at night!
So, tonight I offer you ideas to get right with your relationships so you can rest peacefully tonight (and every night)!
The important relationships:
1. Relationship with God.
If my faith is wobbly and wavering, I suffer from incredible anxiety and sleepless nights. I think Joel Osteen says it well when he speaks about our faith and our mountains (aka our challenges or “problems). He quotes Jesus in Mark 11:23 (kjv)”Whoever will say to this mountain, be removed, and does not doubt in his heart, he will have whatever he says”. Source: I Declare 31 Promises to Speak Over your Life by Joel Osteen, p.161
2. Relationship with spouse
This is so huge for me. If I go to bed after an argument with my husband John, I am quite literally in hell all night. I can not sleep until I know there is harmony between me and my husband. Our marriages are the most sacred and important relationships we will ever have. Put them first. All else will fall into place.
An absolutely wonderful site is Fawn Weaver’s Happy Wives Club.It’s a blog celebrating loving our husbands. It is very life affirming and I highly recommend it! What is more important than love?
3. Relationship with self
This is another big one. I spent years of my life beating myself up, torturing myself with self doubt and fear and pity. If we are not right with ourselves we are setting ourselves up for anxiety and many sleepless nights. We need to accept and love ourselves. Be gentle. Accept. Love. Know we are doing our best. Forgive and let go of the past. Quit our people pleasing ways… Try imagining your four year old self. Really center on this image. You were this beautiful innocent little person once who just needed to be loved and accepted… guess what? You are still that person!
Begin now to unconditionally love yourself. Self berating and perfectionism and pleasing need to go out with yesterday’s newspaper. Got it?!
4. Relationship with parents
My Jewish background makes it very clear about this: we are to honor our parents. They gave us life. If we are holding onto grudges from the past, it is time to let them go. Our parents did their best raising us (just as we are doing our best raising our own children). Focus on the good they did. The rest? Let it go! Love them. If your parents are getting older and they don’t live near you: call them, write them thank you notes (Facebook and texting don’t count). Visit them. Cherish them now. What a gift they gave us and what a gift life and God has given us if they are still here. If they are not, pray and love them and know they are in a good place!
5. Relationship with community.
Agape, love of all mankind and the world is so important. If we choose to be kind, gentle, and non violent in our society… so much good will come from this. Each individual has great power to influence the whole. Something simple such as letting the car on the highway in your lane or smiling at the stranger in your grocery store… we never really know exactly how our behavior (if centered in love) can affect others. But we can be sure that it does in same way… how do we want to affect others and our community)?
6. Relationship with our children
A few things I will say about this all important relationship… children are our future- they need our unconditional love, support, guidance, firm boundaries and discipline. Our kids don’t need us to be their best friends or to earn trophies that they really did not earn. Our kids need to learn the boost of confidence that comes from hard work and good character. They need the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. They need to see mom and dad who make their marriage a priority and grow up in secure and solid homes as opposed to stress and (possibly) divorced homes because parents made the kids the entire focus of the home at the expense of the marriage.
7. Relationship with profession: (employer, colleagues, clients, customers).
Integrity! Do what you say you are going to do. Deliver value. Be a problem solver rather than a whiner.
Get these seven relationships right and you will sleep well at night. I promise!
Not sleeping well? What are you doing during your day?
Are you exercising?
Are you eating well?
Are you doing meaningful work?
Are you spending time with people you love?
Are you carving out a little “me time”?
I firmly believe that if we are living a well lived day, we increase our chances of sleeping restfully at night.
To be continued…
Here are seven things that help me sleep well most nights:
1. Being calm around the inevitable storms of daily life (not being reactive).
2. Exercising during the day.
3. Not eating anything too heavy at night.
4. Nurturing my marriage.
5. Limiting my exposure to negative media images and stories
6. Doing work that is important.
7. Having faith.
*Just a little foot note for number four: nurturing my marriage …
I wish to add a few more things to my list of what I appreciate about my husband:
1. He is kind
2. He is patient with me.
3. He is a good step dad to my teenaged daughter
4. He has become my “personal trainer” at our new gym and is working me out and helping me discover strength and muscles I didn’t know I have! lol
5. He always cleans up the kitchen at night after dinner.
Thank you, John, for being my sweetie!
How can blogging give us a good night sleep?
Here are five ways:
1. Blogging is a terrific creative outlet. However you want to express yourself, you can do it by blogging. There is something very relaxing and satisfying about creating something. I feel so fulfilled and at peace after I have posted (especially when I know it is a really good one)!
2. Blogging helps you be heard! We all have voices that need to be heard. When you put something you believe in that is a part of you out there to the world and the world responds back in a positive way- that is enormously affirming! Feeling affirmed and valued will definitely help you sleep at night.
3. Blogging is good for connecting with like minded and supportive people. We are social beings. When you become a part of a community and you feel like you are contributing to it… that is a very satisfying feeling to drift off to sleep with.
4. Blogging is writing and writing is healing….
5. If your day job is not fulfilling you, blogging can keep you feeling motivated and your spirits high.
Whether you feel like you are a writer or not, I encourage you to give blogging a try. Whatever your interests may be, there are certainly people out there who share your enthusiasms or experiences too. Blogging does not have to cost you a thing! There are many free blogging platforms such as WordPress.com, Blogger, and Tumblr just to name a few.
Here’s to expressing ourselves, being affirmed and validated, and contributing to and being supported by our community!
The bottom line is we all have the need to be significant and have purpose.
Blogging about something you care about can give you that.
Guess what? If you feel significant and feel as if your life has purpose, you will not have much issues with anxiety or getting to sleep at night…