Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us are Sick and Tired
By Steven Park, MD
Jodev Press, 2008
This book was written by an otolaryngologist. Pig Latin aside, that means he is a medical professional who specializes in the ear, nose and throat and just about anything else above the shoulders. The main message of the book is that inadequate sleep leads to a long list of symptoms you don’t want. These symptoms include weight gain, cancer, ADHD in adults, constant fatigue, high blood pressure and heart attack. Mental impairment is also very common. Lack of sleep can lead to nodding off at work among other inconvenient things.
Most health experts simplistically advise you to get enough sleep, as though it is just a scheduling issue. For many people (like me sometimes), it isn’t that simple. We spend enough time in bed but still are not getting enough good quality sleep. Orders to get more sleep don’t help. How do we accomplish that and why is it so hard? Dr. Park offers some answers.
There can be many reasons why it is difficult to sleep. Eating or exercising too close to bedtime, too much light in the room, too much noise in the room, poor diet, electronic devices too close to the bed, injuries that make it hard to get comfortable and a snoring partner are some offenders. We don’t really need a whole book on how to handle most of those problems and Dr. Park doesn’t waste a lot of paper on them. What about people who have none of those problems and still can’t sleep well? That is what the good doctor focuses on in this book.
If you snore or can’t sleep on your back, you may be one of the people this book is talking to. Snoring is not a benign-but-annoying trait. It is a clue that there is a problem with your breathing while you sleep. Many people are not getting the deep, restful sleep they need because they are not getting enough air. This is usually due to a structural problem in the nose or throat or both. Dr. Park notes that this occurs particularly often in people who have narrow faces, jaws and dental arches. Weston Price immediately springs to mind and more than once Dr. Park does briefly mention Price’s observations of a correlation between diet and cranial structure. You will find more detail on this subject in the articles by Dr. Raymond Silkman (“Is It Mental or Is It Dental?” Wise Traditions Winter 2005/Spring 2006) and Dr. Louisa Williams (“From Attention Deficit to Sleep Apnea” Wise Traditions Fall 2009). Most readers are familiar with sleep apnea, and this book goes into considerable detail explaining all the variations of what happens, why it happens, and what the consequences are.
Dr. Park then explores possible solutions but admits that no single option works for everyone. In some less severe cases just sleeping on your side may be good enough. Breathe Right® adhesive strips to open nasal passages work for others. If you have a serious structural problem, however, nutritional or herbal solutions will not be enough. Another possibility is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). That means using forced air to keep airways open. This helps considerably for some but not everyone can sleep with a mask on their face like Darth Vader. Another option is a mandibular advancement device—sorry, more Pig Latin. That’s just a gizmo that pulls your lower jaw forward to open up your airway. That can also be uncomfortable and many people eventually toss it to the side. If none of those options works, surgery to remove excess soft tissue is about the last resort. This sometimes helps, but usually less than half the time. Park does not recommend addictive nasal decongestants or sleeping pills.
If I haven’t put you to sleep yet, you might be interested to know this book rates a thumbs UP.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2011.