Okay, this is something that blew my mind.
Why? Because I couldn’t friggen find it anywhere online. And I do a lot of research when it comes to holistic approaches for healing CFS and fibromyalgia. I say healing… but you know what I mean:
Managing. Improving. Having 1/3rd of a life again.
If you already know about this condition, you’ll probably think: Oh, yeah, big whoop.
But I’m betting there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it. Now, once you know about it, you can do plenty of research online. There’s some decent information out there, and there are also great articles talking about its link to fibromyalgia and CFS.
The problem is if you don’t know what you’re looking for, good luck finding it.
What if I told you there was a condition similar to sleep apnea, but that it could rarely be detected in sleep studies and its effects were detrimental to your body?
You’d probably think: TELL ME SO I CAN FIND OUT IF I HAVE IT!
All right, all right… here it is.
It’s called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome.
The name is pretty self-explanatory, but I’m going to break it down for you. In short, the syndrome causes your airways to collapse when your muscles relax at night. This can be due to your facial structure, the position of your tongue, etc. Basically… it’s almost identical to sleep apnea, but you can rarely catch it in a sleep study.
What kind of sneaky evil is that? Right?
But wait, here’s where it differs (and also why sleep studies don’t catch it): the condition doesn’t cause your blood oxygen levels to drop because you don’t exactly stop breathing. Instead, you struggle to breathe/choke, so it wakes you from deep sleep, causing your sleep to become fragmented.
Then you wake up feeling like you’ve only slept two hours. Either that, or you tossed and turned all night and you don’t know why.
Side-by-side view of open airway (left) and obstructed airway (right)
The only reason I found out about this condition was because I was sure I had sleep apnea. It runs in my family and my spouse would often tell me that it sounded like I was choking at night. So I got tested, keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that I DID have sleep apnea. As crazy as that might sound, when you have a chronic illness, you will gladly take a diagnosis if it means treatment is available.
Unfortunately, the results said my sleep was fine.
I was beyond frustrated since I managed to tie back most of my problems to my sleep through symptom tracking (if I don’t get enough sleep, I wake up feeling hungover).
It was only when I spoke to a specialist that she mentioned this syndrome.
The good news is that there are different treatments available, including mouth appliances that keep your jaw and/or tongue in the right position, and CPAP or APAP machines.
So, if you’ve had a sleep study done and nothing came out of it, but you were convinced you had sleep apnea, don’t give up hope. You might have UARS! Do your research and get a referral to a sleep specialist. Some places allow you to try out a CPAP machine for a month or two without actually buying the device.
Lastly, if you aren’t familiar with sleep apnea’s link to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, past studies have showed that 50-60% of people with fibromyalgia and CFS have sleep apnea. It makes perfect sense, if you think about it.
Sleep is what heals your body, hence why you’re told to rest when you feel sick. If you aren’t getting enough quality sleep every night, imagine what that’s doing to your body over time… Imagine the amount of inflammation you have.
That’s not to say everyone with fibro or CFS has sleep apnea or UARS, but it’s worth looking into, right?
Good luck to you!