Managing Sleep Apnea without a CPAP Machine

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disturbance problems in America. It ruins the sleep of an estimated 25 million Americans on a regular basis. The condition prevents the sleeper from entering REM and Delta sleep causing them to become anxious, cantankerous and tired during the day. There are very serious health consequences of prolonged sleep deprivation. Additionally, due to the nature of the condition, it causes blood oxygen levels to be lower than normal for very prolonged periods of time. This is damaging to the brain and heart in particular.

Presently, there are several ways in which the problem is addressed. Initially, the patient is told to loose weight, drink less alcohol and quit smoking. With just a smidgen of insight into human nature, anyone can figure out how unsuccessful this approach will be. Beyond that, surgery is offered to reduce obstruction in the inhalation pathway. This has provided some success, but the procedure is painful and often provides no relief. The last option is for the patient to purchase a CPAP device. This is a forced air mask, worn during sleep, which insures proper inhalation. Most patients are not willing to go to this expense or to endure this level of machinery and the resultant nasal irritation.

What has continued to plague the appropriate treatment of this condition is that none of the “solutions” address the actual cause of the problem. Being over-weight does not cause this problem, smoking does not cause this problem, sleeping on ones back does not cause this problem. So what then, does cause the problem?

Cause of the condition:

When we start to fall asleep, we move from stage one (drowsiness) into stage two sleep. Stage two sleep is the transition stage before entering REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is where we dream. Dreaming is critical to a good nights sleep. When we enter stage two sleep in preparation for dreaming, muscular activity is inhibited. It is called “reduction of muscle tonus”. This is a function that occurs primarily to keep the dreamer from physically acting out the movements of their dreams since the part of the brain that controls muscular movement cannot tell the difference between you dreaming of walking down stairs and you actually walking down stairs. This muscular inhibition is absolutely necessary. It is accomplished by suppressing the flow of signals from the brain along the spinal cord. Unfortunately, as we age, a couple of problems develop.

The first problem is that the muscles of the soft palate in your mouth become weaker. This allows the soft palate to sag. This is not particularly unusual since most people are not professional vocalists and don’t exercise their soft palate. As we age and levels of HGH drop, many muscles in our body atrophy to a lower level of capability.

The second problem is that the communication between the diaphragm and the brain becomes somewhat obstructed. The nerves that reach the diaphragm emanate from the spinal column at C3, C4 and C5. These are cervical vertebrate that are right at the insertion of the upper trapezius muscles. The upper trapezius muscles are the most common expression of stress and tension in humans. This tension reduces the intervertebral foramen from which the nerves emanate and restricts the nervous flow along the root of the nerve through direct restriction. Unfortunately, a large amount of this tension is residual and does not dissipate when the subject enters stage two sleep.

The result of this is that upon entering stage two sleep, the muscle tonus holding the soft palate out of the air-way is reduced. This allows the soft palate to sag into the airway. While this is happening, the same inhibition of muscle tonus is attenuating (reducing) the signals to the diaphragm on an already obstructed communication channel. The result is that our breathing becomes shallower and shallower due to insufficient signal strength to the diaphragmatic muscles.

As our breathing becomes shallower, the blood oxygen level drops. In a young and healthy individual, this would illicit stronger and deeper breathing from the control system that regulates these activities. In an older individual with restricted nervous flow to the diaphragmatic muscles, there is no residual ability to increase for the purpose of offsetting the inhibition caused by stage two sleep entry and restricted nervous flow due to muscular tension in the neck region. Consequently, the respirations reduce in intensity and the blood oxygenation drops.

The blood oxygen level drops and the normal proportional control loop is un-able to maintain the desired level. This is where the safety back-up system comes in. When the blood oxygen level gets low enough and the carbon dioxide level gets high enough, the brain intervenes and causes the body to make a large and immediate inhalation. This causes a large pressure differential in the pharynx and literally sucks the sagging-soft palate into the airway. This obstructs the flow and causes a loud “SNORT” awakening the subject. Most times, the subject is not fully awakened and thus isn’t aware that this is even happening. They just return to stage 1 sleep.

Upon awakening or return to stage 1 sleep, the inhibition causing the reduction of muscle tonus for entry into stage two sleep is released and respiration begins again in a somewhat normal manner. As the subject starts to drift off to sleep again, they move into stage two, the muscle tonus drops, the soft palate sags, the signal to the diaphragm diminishes and the cycle repeats. The resulting snorting awakenings typically occur every minute or so.

The Solution:

So you see, the problem is not the sagging soft palate. The problem is not the rapid inhalation that sucks your soft palate into the airway. The problem is the reduced ability of the signal from your brain to produce sufficient breathing amplitude from your diaphragm. If your breathing was sufficiently deep enough, then you would not make a rapid inhalation, suck your soft palate into the airway and snort; disturbing your sleep.

The appropriate solution is not to cut flesh from your pharynx or to use heavy equipment to force air into your lungs. The appropriate intervention is to accentuate the ability of the brain to communicate with the diaphragm so that you breathe deeply and steadily.

Now that we have accurately characterized the problem, the solution becomes obvious. Sure it is beneficial to strengthen the muscles of the soft palate. Yes it is advantageous to reduce muscular tension in the neck. Both of these things will make a noticeable improvement in the condition. However, the most dramatic impact can be made by the administration of just a few common herbs.

Lobellia is used in small doses as a respiratory stimulant. In larger doses, it has the opposite effect. This herb, when taken before bed, can actually increase the quiescent level of respiration sufficiently so as to avert the dangerous drop in blood oxygen level that occurs upon muscular inhibition. It can maintain deep steady breathing through the stage 2 sleep period. Since it can have some un-settling effect on the stomach, it should be used in conjunction with Meadowsweet to eliminate any slight nauseous feeling.

Thyme has traditionally been used to enhance pleural activity and makes an excellent contribution to maintaining sufficient respiratory amplitude. To round out the combination, Chamomile aids the subject in relaxing and Cramp Bark helps the upper trapezius muscles to relax.

This bouquet of herbs relaxes muscles that restrict nervous flow, increases drowsiness, enhances respiration and protects the stomach lining. It represents a wholistic natural solution to sleep apnea. It is non-habit forming and no-preconditioning is required. Utilizing a natural approach to solving the sleep apnea problem can be liberating and rewarding. You may very well avoid surgery or CPAP use.

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Mr. Steven Frank

I'm an herbalist who enjoys solving difficult yet common problems by applying NorthAmerican Herbology in innovative ways.

Mr. Steven Frank

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Comments

  1. jlw1969 says

    Very good article. I have trouble sleeping many nights and I will find these herbs and see if they will work for me.

  2. Jerry Miller says

    What about seeing a chiropracter and have the spine re-aligned in the C3, C4, and C5 area so that the nerves coming out of the spinal column there can begin to carry normal signal flow from the brain to the effected areas rather than functioning like a pinched-off water hose? The procedure would need to be repeated until the muscles in the area have been re-trained to hold the spine straight again rather than holding it in an out of alignment position. This could even eliminate the need for other natural intervention.

  3. Joyce Hansen says

    Mr. Frank: I have at least 4 family members with sleep apnea, Can you please tell me if all these herbs have to be used at once, or do you just use one at a time? How much of each and where can they be purchased?

    Thank you for your prompt response and the information you provide to all of us.

    Joyce
    jerry521 [at] centurytel.net

  4. Anonymous says

    Thank-you for this info. I have been wondering if there was anything
    other that the cpap machine for this problem. My husband has this problem and already has the machine but clearly it is not working for him!

  5. The Discoverer says

    Need to learn the difference between “loose” and “lose”.

    It would be helpful if you would suggest amounts of the herbs recommended.

    I have very serious sleep apnea, 648 cortical arousals in a 7-hour sleep clinic trial. I am using a CPAP. It is a blessing but also somewhat bothering to always be tethered to the machine. So, I’d like to try your solution.

    Thank you.

  6. Norris R. Hinton says

    Sounds very interesting. I have tried a few different herbs for sleep without a lot of success. I haven’t tried any of these. Since sleep apnea seems to be a pretty prevelent problem it would seem top me that some company would come up with a capsul with this combination of herbs. I will see if I can find all of these herbs and give them a try. Most nights I tajke my cpap mask of not long after I go to sleep as once I wake up I can’t go back to sleep with it on
    Thanksm29G

  7. Ace says

    Until & unless people like Mr. Frank can present a case study or at least some professional opinion as to the veracity of his findings then he had better be careful about what he puts on the web. Many people have severe sleep apnea. I too have it & use a CPAP machine. My apneas can last up to 90 seconds-without oxygen- thus creating a serious health situation. I don’t like using a CPAP. An herbal remedy would be great but please don’t leave people like us ‘hanging’. That is just not right. Either do the whole job or do nothing. We want science, not opinion or speculation.

  8. G says

    As all of the above, I also would like to know how much of
    each herb to take.
    Thank you for all your wonderful info.

  9. trashgordon says

    “lose” vs “loose”
    —–
    Aha! Another spell-catcher! (The Discoverer)… “loose” is not misspelled… it’s just the wrong word. I skipped over it because I am not trying to lose any weigh (I’ve dropped 30 lbs. in the last year).

  10. Anonymous says

    Mr. Frank
    Could you provide info on availability of this particular mixture (tea or tincture) and dosage.

    Thankls

  11. LizaB says

    Ha trashgordon…see how easy typos are? Let’s give Mr. Frank a break already. He’s trying to share some useful information with us. :-)

  12. Mr. Steven FrankAnonymous says

    Hi Guys,

    Sorry about the spelling mistakes. Thanks so much for catching them for me.

    You can make a decoction (tea) of the herbs. They’re not too bad tasting. If you don’t like it, throw in a little peppermint.

    There is a company called Nature’s Rite that sells a good combination.

    I would suggest that you start with about 500mg of lobelia if you want to do this on your own.

    How that helps… Good night.

  13. Mr. Steven FrankSRFrank1 says

    Thanks for your comments all… Sorry to leave you hanging. Start with 500mg of lobelia.

    As for the chiro adjustments… well that is only a part of it and a minor part indeed. Adjustment (in and of itself) will not get rid of the problem.

    And the science… Well science (real science) used to begin with observation and experimentation. Hypothesis was then used to direct further research and the process was repeated as the results were used (synthesis) to improve the approach. Indeed this is what I have done. You can rest assured (no pun intended) this this works for lots of folks. Nothing works for everyone. Clinical testing would cost millions and provide only the answer to the question of how well will it work on a random population. Worthwhile, but it doesn’t change the truth of whether it works for you. This is not a statistical question at all. It is an empirical discovery that only you can make. So enjoy, try the combination and see how well it works for you. I use it every night and have been over-joyed with my discovery.

    I just wanted to share it with all of you.

    Best of Health,
    SR Frank

  14. JR. says

    “Start with 500mg Lobelia”……how about the Meadowsweet, Thyme, Chamomile and Crampbark?
    Also how much lobelia can one move up to?

    Do you plan to market your discovered combination? Thanks for sharing the information – but not everyone is a herbalist who can decide how much of each herb should be used!

  15. Kaybee says

    Sounds great, my dentist wants me to have the sleep test as she says the no.1 cause of clenching and grinding of teeth is the lack of oxygen/being unable to breathe due to sleep apnoea. She has made me a device to wear at nighttime in my mouth to keep the jaw forward. I would love to know dosage and timing of all the herbs spoken of here please and whether they can all be taken at once or if there are any contraindications with vitamin and mineral supplements please!

  16. Anonymous says

    Hi Frank,
    My son has ben suffering from sleep apnea and was advised the use of CPAP machine but it’s too cumbersome not to mention expensive.He enrolled in Buteyko type of breathing which helped a little but he still has the “snoring”and “snorting” .
    Just like most of the questions put forth, my questions are the ff:
    1. Where can you buy these herbs?
    2. What dosage?
    3. Side effects?
    4. How long do you take them?
    Thanks. Hope to hear from you

  17. Mr. Steven FrankSRFrank1 says

    Hi Anonymous,

    Yes, they are safe to take long-term. No side effects that I’ve ever heard of. I get mine from NaturesRiteRemedies.com but any local herbal vendor will have them.

    Your sons should try it. …works well for me for the last 5 years.

  18. Vi S. says

    Re: “Adjustment (in and of itself) will not get rid of the problem,” that is valid as far as it goes but I would surmise that a shotgun approach could provide greater relief than herbals alone. Might there not be accupuncture/accupressure, reflexology, Ayurvedic and/or Chinese therapies as well? I doubt that apnea is a problem in the western world only. Who knows what a combination might do to rewire brain circuitry with changes that could affect the muscle tonus and diaphragmatic signals in a positive way?

  19. Anonymous says

    I had been in Manual Therapy at the Physical Therapy dept for a couple of years to have my spine aligned. I was also taught how to sleep on my pillows correctly, rather than with bent neck. Near the end of my treatment the MT suggested I be tested for Sleep Apnea, and it turned out that he was correct, so I know that these things do not correct Sleep Apnea.

    I also stop breathing if I doze off sitting upright and I am a shallow breather whenever deeply relaxed (as during meditation.) I do not drink alcohol nor any drugs nor meds, am underweight that fat obstructing my throat is not the cause.

    I’ve been aware that for some strange reason my respiratory system “collapses” whenever deeply relaxed or sleeping & really appreciate this article’s explanation that I may understand this condition better.

    Since being diagnosed 5 yrs ago I’ve become aware that I’ve had Sleep Apnea for at least 40 yrs now that I’d always woken “in a fog” & thought I just need a few cups of coffee for my brain to realize ‘we’re awake now’ by around noon time or so, fatigued leg muscles whether I’ve been physically active or not, some days unbearable headaches that I always thought were just worse days for my year around sinus/allergy problem, and never feeling I have normal mental & physical energy with alertness & clarity of thought until night time each day (by that time my my oxygen level has increased.) I’ve also had chronic anxiety disorder that causes mild seizures (not grande malle) since a teenager & despite full recovery treatment (not meds) & relaxation techniques that I’m feeling totally serene most of the time.

    The CPAP machine was a major challenge as I’m claustrophobic with it strapped onto my face & head. Then it caused a chronic throat infection that I was on mega antibiotics for 3 months that it continued worsening rather than clearing up until we discovered that it entirely cleared up the day after not using the CPAP, and immediately returned upon using it again. So my CPAP machine has been packed away in the closest for almost 5 yrs now.

    I’ve been sleeping on my side, ‘tho I’d prefer my back, but it helps. I never wake with the low oxygen symptoms except the unbearable headaches etc once in awhile, which I believe must be caused from changing to the sleeping on my back position during sleep.

    I am so grateful to know that these herbs may help. Thank you Mr Frank for sharing what has helped you.

  20. Anonymous says

    I went to NaturesRiteRemedies.com, and it seems this company is owned by Mr. Frank. Don’t know what that means; just thought I’d throw it out there. –david

  21. Geraldo says

    Mr. Frank is indeed selling a supplement claiming to stop sleep apnea, at several sites including the one mentioned above.

    I couldn’t find the amounts of the herbs in the commercial supplement, but I DID find these dosages in the patent Mr. Frank filed on this supplement:

    Lobelia 300-600 mg
    Meadowsweet 50-200 mg
    Thyme 20-500 mg
    Chamomile 20-200 mg
    Cramp Bark 30-200 mg

    all assuming an adult weighing 100-170 pounds. Note that in his patent Mr. Frank asserts that delayed absorption of a portion of these herbs (by enteric coating or similar means) will extend the time frame that it will work in.

    Thyme and chamomile have extremely low toxicity, so I would imagine no issues using the maximum dosage listed (which are both less than you would use for tea or to flavor your steak). Thyme is available in the spice isle of every decent grocery store, and chamomile is available in every tea section I have ever seen.

    Cramp bark can cause a drop in blood pressure, but typical dosages of 1/2 teaspoon are easily more than 200 mg. Apparently you should avoid it if you have sensitivity to aspirin. You would need to visit some sort of health store or herbalist to get it.

    Meadowsweet is often used by the ounce, so even 200 mg is not likely to cause trouble. I have seen it in specialty tea shops.

    Lobelia is TOXIC, and regulated in some states and provinces. The typical herbalist dosage is around 1/2 teaspoon 3 times per day. I don’t have any around to check how much 1/2 teaspoon is, but for most dried herbs it is typically around 500 mg. I haven’t seen it sold anywhere but some specialty online herbal shops.

    PLEASE NOTE: I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice.

    Best Regards, Geraldo

  22. Mr. Steven FrankSRFrank1 says

    Yes Geraldo, I do sell a supplement with all of these. The formula is proprietary. I shared my knowledge of it with the group because it so dramatically changed my life. I have been using it for 5+ years and it worked when nothing else would. That is worth sharing. I thought that my insight into sleep apnea and the interesting combination of herbs that I used would be valued by the group. I didn’t expect all the spelling criticism and skepticism.
    Lobelia has been used safely for thousands of years. The statement that it is toxic really scares folks unnecessarily. Any herb that has an effect worth using can be toxic or dangerous in amounts that are very large. This is true of house-hold medications as well. Consider Tylenol or cough syrup.
    Please do not lose the value in what I have presented. Why not just try the product and be thankful for the introduction to what could be a great facilitating herbal remedy?

  23. Anonymous says

    What makes me skeptical is that Mr. Frank did not state at the beginning that he sold this product. It makes it seem like he had an ulterior motive (making money) in telling us his story and suggesting the herbal sleep product that his undisclosed company sells. Mr Frank undermined himself by his initial lack of full disclosure.

  24. Rabbit says

    This is the best description of sleep apnea that I have ever heard. I tried to explan this to my boyfriend and my doctor and neither knew what I was talking about. You are exactly right about how the apnea begins. I intend to try the herbs. Will any of it affect my Atrial Fib that is caused by the apne or I assume is caused by the apnea? I take drugs to stop the AF.

  25. Anonymous says

    There is absolutely no way sleep apnea can solely be controlled thru herbal consumption & to do so without professional medical guidance is literally insane.

    Sleep apnea can be caused by many factors but the common denominator is that during sleep your body is NOT getting enough oxygen into vital organs such as your heart, brain, etc.

    Sleep Apnea is a very serious illness!

  26. Anonymous says

    Dear Steven,

    I live in Brazil.

    I have never seen an article like this.

    I used CPAP and I could not use it so far. It was really terrible to deal with it.

    Can you send me the names of these plants in portuguese and the amount of each one of them??

    Where Can I buy it ??

    Regards.

  27. Persnickety says

    “There is absolutely no way…”
    Are you sure? There’s ABSOLUTELY no way? What evidence do YOU site?

    “…to do so without professional medical guidance is literally insane.”
    Literally insane, you say? I’m not able to find that condition listed in any of the physiological references that I’ve checked. Nor does it ACTUALLY preclude any rational thought. It might be unwise, but insane it is not.

    Speak more reasonably and you might be taken seriously.

    I happen to be a logical, reasonable person and I can think of plenty of ways to safely, empirically test these hypotheses. Not to mention going to a natural food store and checking the labels on these herbs to see what the common dosages are.

    If you will just think a little bit, lots of possibilities present themselves.
    (No, I’m not Mr. Frank in disguise 😉 )

  28. TS says

    Hi Steve
    I have tried numerous times to purchase “Sleep Apnea Relief” from http://www.natures-rite-remedies.com but always get an error on each of the sites pages except for the Homepage, any ideas? Also is there an Australian supplier as when I tried purchasing on Amazon or eBay there was a $35.00 ship fee to Aust. which I thought a bit excessive given the bottle of tablets was $30.00.
    I like others have tried CPAP, Buyteko beathing method and still have an issue.

  29. Myathens says

    I would be really careful with the Lobelia.
    It was traditionally used to cause a miscarriage and many young ladies died as a result.

  30. Anonymous says

    Interesting, but how much of each herb? Is it available in one pill?
    I use a CPAP machine and feel much better since I’ve been able to sleep all night for the past six months. My chiropractor has detected diaphragmatic muscle problems in me before. Wondering if this is connected with the sleep apnea?

  31. Anonymous says

    i was first dignosed with sleep apnea because i was having trouble sleeping and breathing and my docter sent me to a nose and throat specialist. So I was given a sleep test and given a machine to use.

    After that my docter discovered i had water around my heart and i was retaining water, I was diabetic and had high blood pressure. i went on medication for all of this and am now doing a lot better. I lost 50 pounds in water. i then called the pharmasist to return the machine because i have never used it . I am sleeping fine now. but i still snore. they lechure me and refused to take back the machine. so it is just sitting around collecting dust.

  32. forbestapproach says

    I have recently been diagnosed with mild sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, so it’s been a while since I’ve had a very good night’s sleep. I intend to try this and hope that others who already have would inform the rest of us about the results. When I had the sleep study, I could tell I wanted no part of the CPAP machine for reasons already cited by previous posters. It seems like the CPAP industry & about 95% of the medical community (if not more) tries to push this on sleep apnea sufferers as the only possible solution. I salute Mr. Frank for his description of s-a and his very pragmatic approach to it. (No, I’m not Mr. Frank–LOL!)

  33. Belle says

    In response to Anonymous’ comment. No one said that the CPAP machine does not work for some people. It’s just that some of us have problems with adjusting to it and are hoping that there is another solution to sleep apnea besides the machine. I, too, have claustrophobia and have tried to use this machine, but to no avail. I’m sure it works great for those who can use it. Please have a little empathy for us instead of feeling offended by any comments being made.

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