Better sleep and breathing

Healthier living through sleep and respiratory care and wellness.

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How Does Your State Stack Up When it Comes to COPD?

How Does Your State Stack Up When it Comes to COPD?

How Does Your State Stack Up When it Comes to COPD?

By Jennifer Nelson

Did you know the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers fact sheets on COPD for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico?

Each fact sheet includes a table listing the reported prevalence of COPD among adults in the state or territory by age, race/ethnicity, sex, employment status, education level, household income, marital status, smoking status and asthma history. The fact sheets are available via an interactive map on the CDC site.

If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, it may be helpful to know the air pollution rates in your state, not to mention carbon monoxide readings, tobacco use and more.

Some interesting facts about COPD by state, according to the CDC:

  • About 6.3 percent of the U.S. population suffers from COPD.
  • Forty-four percent of Oklahoma COPD sufferers haven’t exercised in a month.
  • Florida residents with COPD reported cost was an obstacle to health care, compared to those without the disease.
  • Texas residents with COPD were more likely to report 14 or more mental health days in the past month, compared to those without the disease.
  • The highest percentage of COPD sufferers live in Kentucky (9.8 percent).
  • The lowest percentage of COPD sufferers live in Utah (4 percent).
  • States with the highest smoking rates have the highest COPD rates. These “tobacco belt" states also have the lowest income levels.

This kind of state-level advocacy can help ease some of the suffering from COPD. You don’t have to move away from your state; however, knowing your risks from irritants, pollution and occupational exposures to chemicals, dust and fumes can be helpful.

Here, the 10 states/territories with the lowest rates of the disease, according to the CDC:

  1. Puerto Rico (3.1 percent of the population has COPD)
  2. Utah (4.0 percent of the population has COPD)
  3. (Tie) Minnesota/ Washington (4.1 percent of the population has COPD)
  4. Hawaii (4.4 percent of the population has COPD)
  5. (Tie) California/ Colorado/ District of Columbia (4.6 percent of the population has COPD)
  6. North Dakota (4.7 percent of the population has COPD)
  7. Nebraska (4.9 percent of the population has COPD)
COPD Isn’t Holding These Two Cyclists Back

COPD Isn’t Holding These Two Cyclists Back

COPD Isn’t Holding These Two Cyclists Back

By Marygrace Taylor

Being diagnosed with COPD doesn’t mean you have to spend your life on the sidelines. Just ask cyclist Mark Junge. He’s lived with COPD for more than a decade—but hasn’t let it stop him from conquering the world on two wheels. 

After being told in 2003 he had COPD, “I was sitting in the recliner with my remote thinking, Is this what I’m going to make of my life?“ says 72-year-old Junge. Knowing he’d feel happier and healthier if he were active, Junge began spending hours at the local YMCA on a stationary bike. Then, he got the idea to ride across the country. “I decided yes, I can do this,” he says. 

And in the summer of 2004, that’s exactly what he did. With his wife Ardath driving ahead in a van, Junge made the journey from San Francisco to New York in just three months, covering roughly 50 miles a day. Since then, he’s ridden across swaths of North America almost every summer—including trips from Newfoundland to Key West, and Tijuana to Alaska. 

Of course, none of Junge’s trips would have been possible without the help of portable oxygen. Last year, for a cross-country cycling trip with his brother-in-law, he strapped his Philips SimplyGo Mini on the back of his bike. Other times, he turns to portable liquid oxygen devices such as the Philips GoLox. “What makes it really great is you can wear it on your hip, and it weighs three and a half pounds. You don’t notice it’s there. I’m just like everybody else,“ he says. 

Portable oxygen devices also have enabled French cyclist Philippe Poncet, who was diagnosed with COPD in 2008, to stay active. After a friend suggested the two begin cycling together, Poncet decided he was up for the challenge. “When I saw that mountain I thought, Bloody hell, there’s no way. But yes, I have to do it,” he says. 

And after conquering one seemingly impossible mountain, Poncet knew there was no going back. In 2013, he climbed Espigoulier’s Pass, a 9.5-mile mountain pass near Marseille. The next year, he set the first hour world record under oxygen assistance on France’s Hyères-Costebelle Velodrome. And in June, he broke the world speed record on the 200 meter race in the southern France. 

Sure, Poncet might be an elite athlete. But he still believes that anyone with COPD can use portable oxygen to be active in whatever way works for their life—be it cycling up a giant peak or simply taking a stroll down the street. “Every step we do, it’s a new adventure,“ he says. So, what’s yours?

In Search of Sleep: Experts Recommend Lifestyle Changes Over Sleeping Pills

In Search of Sleep: Experts Recommend Lifestyle Changes Over Sleeping Pills

In Search of Sleep: Experts Recommend Lifestyle Changes Over Sleeping Pills

By Linda Childers

If you have problems falling or staying asleep, you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, each night millions of people in the United States spend the night tossing and turning.

While it may be tempting to reach for a sleeping pill to ensure slumber, medical experts recommend using caution. A medical study released in September 2014showed that using benzodiazepine, a drug class used to treat anxiety and insomnia (and found in medications including Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Ambien) of three months or more was linked to an increased risk (51 percent) of dementia.

Even over-the-counter sleeping pills have been linked to memory problems. Benadryl, a popular allergy medication, that also induces sleepiness, was shown in a 2012 study to increase forgetfulness.

“The sedative effects of Benadryl can be long acting and can impair performance such as driving the following morning,” said Dr. David Brown, a sleep psychologist in Woodlands, Texas.

For short-term relief, Brown said melatonin, a natural hormone, is the best bet for insomnia.

“Melatonin taken in the early evening, combined with bright light in the morning can help people fall asleep earlier,” Brown said. “As with any supplement, before taking melatonin consumers should always check with their doctor.”

Instead of turning to sleep pills, Terry Cralle, a nurse and certified clinical sleep educator from Fairfax, Virginia, said making some lifestyle changes can often lead to a better night’s sleep.

“If you suffer from chronic insomnia, you should talk to your doctor and see if you might be a candidate for a sleep test or routine blood testing,” Cralle said. “Conditions such as sleep apnea and vitamin deficiencies have been shown to cause insomnia.”

For those who have ruled out insomnia-related medical conditions, Cralle recommends practicing good sleep hygiene.

“If your mattress is more than seven years old, it may be time to buy a new mattress,” Cralle said. “Look for a mattress that offers both comfort and support, and also make sure to upgrade your pillows, and to purchase pillows that support your sleep position.”

Cralle also recommends adopting a good bedtime routine.

“This means no televisions, smartphones or electronics in the bedroom, since these devices can act as stimulants and keep you awake,” she said. “Instead, try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, and consider installing blackout curtains, a fan or a white noise machine in your bedroom.”

Seeing is Believing: Study Shows a Higher Use of CPAP in Patients Who See Their Sleep Apnea

Seeing is Believing: Study Shows a Higher Use of CPAP in Patients Who See Their Sleep Apnea

Seeing is Believing: Study Shows a Higher Use of CPAP in Patients Who See Their Sleep Apnea

By Reyna Gobel

new study reveals that patients who see a videotape of their sleep apnea may lead them to use their CPAP machines more.

The question everyone wants to know is, What makes videotaping in a sleep lab different and better than videotaping one’s spouse at home?

According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Mark Aloia, Senior Director of Global Clinical Research for Philips Respironics and associate professor of medicine at National Jewish Health, it wasn’t just the visual that encouraged patients to use their CPAP machines more. The videos were edited down to a few minutes and were one element in a 30-minute educational session that also included physiological data from the patients’ CPAP machines. The information combined was more powerful in showing patients they actually gasped for air in an apnic episode.

Having your spouse videotape your sleep poses its own issues: Besides the fact you must consent to being videotaped, a recording made at home lacks context. A sleep behavior specialist or nurse knows more about the physiology and psychology of what’s happening during an apnic episode than your spouse would. Plus, a medical specialist can discuss with you the different ways that using your CPAP machine longer can help you sleep better.

The study consisted of 24 sleep apnea patients: 12 people who were shown a video of someone else’s sleep apnea and 12 individuals who were shown a video of their own sleep apnea. The 12 individuals who viewed themselves used the CPAP machine for two more hours per night three months after watching the video.

The study’s findings were interesting enough that Dr. Aloia plans to conduct a larger study of 300 sleep apnea patients.

Can Poor Sleep Predict Disease?

Can Poor Sleep Predict Disease?

Can Poor Sleep Predict Disease?

By Jennifer Nelson

Chronic sleep deprivation is one of the most serious health complaints these days. Now, research suggests that chronic sleep deprivation may be a precursor to a number of other diseases as well.

Here’s what we know about the sleep/disease link:

Parkinson’s disease

People who have a REM sleep disorder that fails to paralyze their muscles while sleeping, allowing them to act out dreams, have shown a 75 percent likelihood of developing Parkinson’s decades later. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with Parkinson’s also are at higher risk for restless legs syndrome (RLS) and periodic leg movement disorder (PLMD), two conditions that may seriously disrupt sleep. However, there is no evidence that RLS or PLMD are risk factors for Parkinson’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease

Studies of mice with plaque buildup in their brains slept poorly, which suggests trouble sleeping may be an early Alzheimer’s warning sign. What’s more, brain pathways involved in the act of daydreaming or introspection in people who have chronic daytime sleepiness are the same pathways affected by Alzheimer’s. So a lack of ability to let your mind wander, or go into “default mode,” may be an early precursor to this memory-stealing disorder.

“We are very interested in exploring these new observations to understand who is at risk and who is protected from Alzheimer’s,” said study author Randy L. Buckner, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator at Washington University in St. Louis.

Obviously not everyone with poor sleeping habits is destined to get Alzheimer’s disease, however.


People who are short on sleep and spend less time in REM sleep crave more sweet, salty and fatty foods, leading to weight gain. Research shows that a lack of sleep can impair appetite regulation, skew glucose metabolism and raise blood pressure, which can lead to overeating.

“These findings show that sleeping poorly can increase a person’s risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease,” said Dr. Kristen Knutson of the University of Chicago.

Further study is needed to determine whether improving sleep can thwart these disorders.


In an animal study at the Medical College of Wisconsin, researchers found that abnormalities in bone and bone marrow were prevalent in rats that were chronically sleep-deprived. If the same results are to be found in humans—and the researchers suspect so— it would indicate a lack of sleep could cause changes in bone density, leading to osteoporosis and the inability to repair bone damage as we age.

If you sleep poorly or are being treated for sleep disorders such as insomnia, REM disorder or sleep apnea, talk with your doctor about whether you may be at higher risk for developing one or more of these conditions. There could be lifestyle changes, tests or precautions to help you reduce your risk.

Answering the Alarm Clock? You Could Be Experiencing Sleep Drunkenness

Answering the Alarm Clock? You Could Be Experiencing Sleep Drunkenness

Answering the Alarm Clock? You Could Be Experiencing Sleep Drunkenness

By Jennifer Nelson

Ever pick up the alarm clock to answer a phone call in the middle of the night? Or get up out of bed and think you’re heading to work in the wee hours of the morning? If you have, you may suffer from sleep drunkenness.

This little-known sleep disorder affects one in seven people and involves confusion or inappropriate behavior while you’re waking from sleep.

study in the journal Neurology found sleep drunkenness occurs mostly during the first part of the night or close to morning and is triggered by a sudden arousal from sleep.

“Sleep drunkenness refers to any situation where the arousal causes confusion; in other words, when people wake up and they’re doing things they are not completely aware of, or they’re aware but don’t remember,” said Dr. Michael Friedman, a sleep expert at Chicago ENT, Advanced Center for Specialty Care. The disorder used to be referred to as Confusion Arousal.

Nearly 20,000 people over 18 were surveyed about their sleep habits. The study found 15 percent have had a sleep drunkenness episode within the past year, and of those, half have them at least once a week. People with a history of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, those with mental health disorders and people taking antidepressants were most at risk, according to the study.

Dr. Friedman noted it’s important to differentiate sleep drunkenness from parasomnias, which are episodes of doing abnormal things during sleep such as sleep eating or sleepwalking and act out when they are fully asleep. Normally muscles are paralyzed during REM sleep, which prevents movement and acting out dreams; however, in people with REM disorders, muscles aren’t paralyzed, allowing them to act on their dreams dangerously.

During a parasomnia episode, the person is fully asleep and it can last five minutes or longer. Sleep drunkenness, however, happens in the brief transition from sleep to arousal and lasts only 30 seconds to a minute.

“Sleep drunkenness is a little less dangerous potentially but people can still get out of bed, fall, trip, hurt themselves or someone else,” Friedman said.

It’s crucial to get any type of confusion or inappropriate behavior during sleep checked out.

Not much is known yet about treating sleep drunkenness or whether it’s pathological or some type of normal transition state during sleep. But people who log shorter or longer than the average six to eight hours of nightly sleep, experience sleep disorders, have anxiety or bipolar disorder, taking antidepressants or suffering jet lag should be aware they are at greater risk for sleep drunkenness.

Petting your slippers and carrying them to the kitchen for a bowl of milk instead of the cat may be seem funny, but it could spell a potential sleep problem.