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Wed, Oct. 23

Sleep apnea can cause coronary artery disease

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is it true that sleep apnea can cause coronary artery disease? My dad was a loud snorer and died of a heart attack. Now I am worried about my husband. He snores loudly and stops breathing, but refuses to discuss it with his doctor.

A: Yes, it is definitely a risk factor for coronary artery disease. A recent study using electron-beam CT scans to detect coronary calcification, a marker of coronary artery disease, found that those with sleep apnea were nearly three times more likely to show significant coronary calcification.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is it true that women need more sleep than men need? My husband and I get to bed at the same time, but if I don't get at least one half hour more sleep, I feel very grumpy.

A: A study done at Duke University last year demonstrated that on average women needed 20 minutes more sleep than men needed. The researchers noted that women who did not, awoke more grumpy and irritated than their male counterparts did. They feel this is in part because females tend to multitask more than men do and as a result, their brains need more sleep time to recover and repair.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I have read that insomnia is completely normal during pregnancy. I have also read that insomnia is a sleep disorder that could be harmful to me and to my baby. Could you resolve this issue?

A: It is true that over 75 percent of women report difficulty either falling or staying asleep during pregnancy. In most cases, insomnia during pregnancy is secondary. That means that an underlying cause such as frequent urination, back pain or fetal movement may be responsible. In addition, primary sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea may be the cause. Finally, we know that elevated estrogen decreases the number of sleep reducing receptors called GABA-A receptors during pregnancy. Therefore, although not "normal", it is common, especially mild forms.

However, if it is so severe as to decrease average sleep time to six hours or less, studies have shown increased concentrations of inflammatory mediators, which can result in preterm deliveries, and an increased rate of C-sections.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine specialist, will answer readers' questions by incorporating them in future columns. Contact him through the form at or via mail at the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, 3259 N. Windsong Drive, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314.

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