Sleep expert Dr. Jeffrey Lipsitz answers viewer questions about diagnosing sleep apnea, treatments and other healthy sleep issues.

"I have been using a C-PAP machine for 4 years now & love it other than having to haul it around when I travel. I heard that a new technology uses some sort of radio wave that can be directed into your palate, stiffening the muscles stopping them from totally relaxing. Any thoughts?"
Trevor Brisebois
Woodbridge, ON

Dr. Jeffrey Lipsitz says the procedure being referred to is called somnoplasty, and uses radio frequency energy.

"It would be done under local anesthetic so that the tissues in the back of the throat are completely frozen. The device would be inserted...and it would deliver basically heat to the tissues on the inside of the soft palate. That causes the tissues to essentially shrivel up...that will reduce the snoring."

How long the procedure lasts is what Lipsitz calls "the $64 question." He says it could stop snoring for up to a couple of years, but then it often returns.

As an alternative to the procedure for frequent travelers Lipsitz recommends smaller dental appliances, which hold the lower jaw forward, opening the passages in the back of the throat and reducing snoring and sleep apnea.

He says it's "something a lot of patients will take when they're on the road because they can put it in their pocket and pop it in their mouth when they're on a plane, a long haul flight or what have you, so that's kind of a portable treatment for sleep apnea."

"I wanted to know about monitoring attached to the finger. It's to check if a person stops breathing at nighttime, do you know if it will actually diagnose the patient with heart disease or angina?"
L. Marik

Finger probes are very commonly used in hospitals to measure the oxygen level in your bloodstream, Lipsitz says, something which can indicate if someone has sleep apnea.

Another similar device called the PAT (Peripheral Arterial Tonometry) can also be used, which "measures the tone in the smallest blood vessels in the fingertips under your fingernails," another indicator of the stress that could be caused by sleep apnea.

"I was diagnosed over 25 years ago with sleep apnea & have had a permanent trachea tube ever since. I struggled for years to control my weight without success. Within 3 months of having the tube inserted I lost 35 lbs. The lack of oxygen in the blood, caused by sleep apnea, slows down metabolism & causes weight gain. Your thoughts?"
Phil, Newfoundland & Labrador

Twenty-five years ago, devices like the C-PAP machine weren't available to treat people with sleep apnea, Lipsitz says, so at the time the most effective treatment was to bypass the obstruction with a tracheostomy.

He adds that while it is no long done "having such surgery in and of itself may lead someone to lose weight, and weight loss will definitely help sleep apnea, whether as a result of a trach tube or more commonly going to a weight loss clinic."

Since weight is a significant risk factor for sleep apnea, Lipsitz says, one treatment is losing the weight.

"I go to sleep just great. Sleep well anywhere from 3-5 hours then wake up & can't get back to sleep. How does one stop their mind from 'racing.' I am 65 years old, retired but very active."
Beth Elhard

People who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep may suffer from insomnia, Lipsitz says, which could be related to a number of factors.  

"Is it related to age, is it related to stress, anxiety, depression, medical problems, medications, chronic pain that will awaken people from sleep," he asks.

Lipsitz says it becomes a very complex question to answer because there are so many options available, from psychological services that can teach people to relax or do mental exercises to sleeping medication. He adds it might be best to consult a family doctor to deal with this type of issue.