Dr. Avi Weisfogel: Taking Sleep Disorders Seriously

Dr. Avi Weisfogel is a Pioneering Force in Sleep Disorder Treatment

Sleeping Disorders a Prelude to Parkinson’s?

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the last of the five sleeping stages. It is also the deepest sleeping stage where the most powerful and vivid dreams tend to happen. Before someone can enter the REM sleep stage, they tend to have to have been asleep for at least ninety minutes previously. Why is the REM stage of sleep so important? It is the restorative part of the sleep cycle. Adults tend to spend about twenty percent of their sleeping time in the REM stage. Interestingly enough, babies spend about fifty percent of their time sleeping in this stage. In any case, the brain is very active during this phase.

There is a sleeping disorder where the person actually acts out their dreams during REM sleep. Their bodies do not follow the normal paralysis that accompanies REM sleep for most people. Because of this, they may swing around their hands and feet, start talking or yelling, and even jump out of bed and run around during this sleeping phase. Their partners may get a lump or two every now and then from their mate during this time, but it can also be a sign of something more serious.

Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD), as it is called, is a condition that indicates there could be a neurodegenerative malady for that person in the near future. In fact, more than 80 percent of the people that suffer from RBD will go on to have a neurodegenerative disease. Neurodegeneration is the loss of functioning neurons in the brain.

What are Neurodegeneration Diseases?

Neurodegenerative diseases are incurable and debilitating conditions that result in progressive degeneration and possibly death of nerve cells. This causes problems with movement or mental functioning. Some of the more well known are Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s. Interestingly enough, autopsies performed on RBD patients have shown that clumps of proteins deep in the brain accumulate in regions that regulate the rapid eye movement sleep. Once again, there has been no known cure for these neurodegeneration diseases.

Other Sleep Disorders

Studies have also shown that even when the sleeping disorder is not related to RBD, people that suffer from the neurodegenerative diseases often have some sort of sleeping problem. Whether it be insomnia, interrupted sleeping, narcolepsy, or sleep apnea, the disturbances that these sleeping disorders bring could be the consequence or the cause of the degeneration of the brain.

Sleep disorders may present themselves much earlier in life, sometimes fifty to sixty years earlier, before the neurodegenerative disease displays its symptoms. Several studies have shown that the degree of sleep disruption can adequately predict a cognitive decline or neurodegenerative disease in the future.

But What Comes First?

If neurodegenerative diseases have a relationship with sleep disorders, then does one create the other. Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Or is the sleep disorder a symptom of the incoming of the degenerative disease? In either case, treating a sleeping disorder early on is possible. If there is a chance that will halt the onslaught of a neurodegenerative disease, then having your sleeping disorder diagnosed and treated by a professional should be a priority in your life.

Getting Treated

Once out of dental school, Dr. Avi Weisfogel opened up his dental practice and started working on teeth. But at the same time, he was noticing that many of his patients were suffering from sleep disorders that had previously been undiagnosed. Even during his first week of business, he was already helping those experiencing sleep problems. After 15 years running a successful dental practice in New Jersey that had won numerous awards, he had found a brand new passion. He wanted to help as many people suffering from sleep apnea as possible.

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where the person will hold their breath in their sleep during the night. Sometimes it will only be for a few seconds, other times it will be for a few minutes. But in doing so, this is cutting off much needed oxygen to the brain. It can eventually lead to serious health consequences such as heart disease or stroke. Often, loud snorers are often battling sleep apnea. Snoring is caused when the person can’t freely breathe through their nose and throat during sleep. So in the future, instead of laughing at the loud snorer next to you on the airplane, maybe once they wake up, tell them they should look into seeing a sleep professional.

Dr. Weisfogel left the dental field behind and focused entirely on helping those battling sleeping disorders. After two years of struggling, he was realizing just not enough people know how serious sleep disorders can be or they just do not know that they have a sleep disorder in the first place. The hardest part was getting in enough patients through his doors to treat. After spending literally millions of dollars on his new sleep practice, marketing his business, and creating oral appliances to stop sleep apnea, he changed strategies a bit.

He started approaching other medical professionals on opening up sleep clinics within their medical building. He pursued them and convinced them enough that he knew he could do this on a bigger scale. In the process, he zeroed in on the type of advertising he needed that was able to benefit his own sleep clinic. Everything was finally coming together for him. Soon he was holding seminars for medical professionals and detailing how they, too, could also help treat the health problem of sleeping disorders.

Are neurodegenerative diseases created by sleep disorders or are sleep disorders merely a symptom of neurodegenerative diseases? That is for much smarter people and science to figure out for certain. But if you know of someone suffering from a sleep disorder, then it could be in their best interest to have them contact a sleep professional or visit a sleep clinic. Their immediate and future health could be at great risk if they put it off any longer.

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Check out our previous article on Dr. Weisfogel here!