Thursday, April 29, 2010

Charles Dickens and The Pickwick Papers

According to a recent article in Tufts Journal, sleep apnea was once known as “Pickwickian syndrome,” after the character Joe in Charles Dickens’ first novel, The Pickwick Papers. Joe’s obesity and tendency to fall asleep during the day led to the book title’s association with sleep apnea.

Almost two centuries after Joe’s sleep troubles, obesity and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is affecting a growing number of people.

Excess fat around the neck can put pressure on the throat during sleep, causing airway collapses. Sedatives such as alcohol and prescription drugs can cause further slackening of the upper-airway tissues.

The article relays a patient success story of a 54-year-old man named Tim, who asked that his last name not be used.

Three years ago, Tim was drinking too much and gaining weight. His wife complained about his snoring and daytime sleepiness. He took a sleep test and was diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea.

Tim could not get used to the CPAP device that his physician recommended for treatment.

“I tried it, but I couldn’t tolerate it,” he says. “The mask fell off constantly, no matter how many times I had it adjusted.”

Tim’s doctor referred him to an AADSM-member dentist to be fitted for a custom-made oral appliance. His two-piece mouth guard held his lower jaw slightly forward during sleep to maintain a steady airflow.

During the next year, Tim visited his dentist every two or three months for tiny adjustments to the mouth guard.

“There was some initial drooling,” Tim reported. “But the body adjusts over time. I’m very used to it now.”

Forty-pounds lighter, Tim is feeling awake during the day and sleeping soundly at night. “I’m back upstairs with my wife,” he said, happy to no longer be sleeping on the living room sofa.

Image by Wigwam Jones

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.