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Sleep Apnea: The Importance of Combining Functional Neurology and Functional Medicine

Sleep Apnea is classified as a sleep disorder that involves an individual to stop breathing while they sleep. This causes a reduction in the amount of oxygen that is circulating and that reaches to the brain. 


There are two types of sleep apnea: 

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

2. Central Sleep Apnea


Obstructive sleep apnea is due to something physically blocking the airway. This can be caused by weight gain,  inflammation in the throat or nasal cavity (allergies, growths etc.), use of alcohol/opioids (nervous system depressants) and more. 


Central sleep apnea is neurologically mediated. Our palate located in our oral cavity raises and depresses through neuronal pathways that are controlled by our lower brainstem. When we sleep and our brain goes into a restorative state, if dysfunction is present in the lower brainstem it can cause the palate to depress while we sleep. This causes an obstruction to the airway but it is due to a neurological origin. 


Why is this so important?

Oxygen is an anti-inflammatory nutrient to our bodies. It is crucial that our brain and body receive enough oxygen through the day and at night to help with hormone production, immune function and brain function. 


Lack of Oxygen = Increase in Inflammation

Individuals that have sleep apnea or trouble with oxygen transportation are more likely to have increased inflammation, hormonal dysregulation and decreased immune function. A lack of oxygen transported through the body will increase someone's calcium score levels, which over time will decrease their immune function and increase their risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. Sleep apnea is one example of the importance of evaluating both the nervous system and someone's metabolic state simultaneously. 


Symptoms:

  • Drowsy in the morning

  • Headaches throughout the day

  • Waking up with a headache

  • Restless sleep

  • Not feeling rested after sleeping for over 7 hours

  • Snoring

  • Brain fog

  • Daytime sleepiness

  • Gasping for air throughout the day

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Mood changes

  • Chronic Pain


At CFNC, when evaluating someone's nervous system we also evaluate our patients labs and metabolic state. This allows us to see how someone's brain is getting nourished through food and oxygen, but also how well their body is utilizing their fuel. With some conditions such as Dysautonomias, Mold Toxicity, Headaches/Migraines, Chronic pain and autoimmune conditions it is imperative to evaluate for fuel delivery dysfunction and central sleep apnea.

With these conditions, it is common to see fuel delivery dysfunction.


A lack of oxygen can be contributing and perpetuating their neurological, hormonal and  immune conditions. These are some examples of a neurological condition causing a metabolic dysfunction and both of the conditions are affecting each other.


At CFNC, we utilize various objective tools to evaluate a patient's nervous system and metabolic state. This consists of things such as lab work, neurological evaluation, physical examination, in-depth history taking, diagnostic testing and more. We feel it is of the utmost importance to combine the fields of functional medicine and functional neurology to help our patients comprehensively and achieve positive results!




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