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​Millions of Canadians are at risk of a serious sleep condition — here’s why so few are diagnosed

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No matter what time 67-year-old Carolyn McCann hits the sack, she’s wide awake by 4:30 a.m.

“I don’t think I have a lot of nights where I sleep eight hours solid. I haven’t done that for a long time now,” says McCann, a retired nurse and grandmother.

She knows she’s not alone. Her friends often complain about restless nights.

“They don’t sleep either … not the way you used to sleep when you were young.”

Statistics Canada estimates one in three Canadians sleep less than the recommended seven to nine hours per night.

Some experts say the culprit is too much screen time. Others blame increased work demands and caffeine consumption.

But few Canadians realize their daytime doziness may be due to sleep apnea, an obstructive sleep disorder that causes people to stop breathing at night, often for as long as 10 to 30 seconds at a time.

CBC’sThe National approached McCann and two other Canadians worried about lack of sleep – Arthur McGregor, 65, and Kim Clark, 57 — and arranged a take-home sleep test for them to help determine the cause of their sleep issues.

Sleep apnea under-diagnosed

Sleep apnea is what doctors refer to as an “obstructive” disorder. When muscles in the airway relax during sleep the tissue can block the flow of air, causing snoring or even choking.

When the body senses the lack of air, it basically wakes up until breathing normalizes. But when the person falls asleep again the cycle restarts — happening anywhere from a few to several hundred times a night.

The consequences of sleep apnea go beyond feeling sleepy. The disorder has been linked to reduced quality of life, work-related injuries and memory loss.

It’s also associated with increased risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack, because the most common cause of the disorder is obesity.

“Weight is directly responsible for sleep apnea,” says Andrew Holmes, a registered polysomnographic technician and sleep specialist who administered the sleep tests for The National.

Andrew Holmes, a registered polysomnographic technician and sleep specialist, says only about 20 per cent of the Canadian population with sleep apnea has been diagnosed. The rest don’t know the cause of their sleep problems, or aren’t aware they have a potentially serious sleep condition. (Christian Patry/CBC)

While sleep apnea can be attributed to inherited traits like face and skull shape, the primary trigger is being overweight. Heavier people tend to have more tissue surrounding their airways, making them prone to obstruction — and apnea can contribute to weight gain, making the problem even worse.

“It doesn’t solely discriminate against those that have weight problems, but … we’re getting a bigger, larger population and heavier-set people. And it’s impacting our sleep,” Holmes says.

While the causes are understood, what is in question is exactly how many Canadians experience sleep apnea.

A 2014 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada estimated 5.4 million Canadian adults have been diagnosed with, or are at high risk of experiencing, obstructive sleep apnea.

According to Health Canada, signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • daytime sleepiness
  • loud snoring followed by silent pauses
  • gasping or choking during sleep
  • morning headache
  • irritability or mood changes
  • poor concentration or memory loss
  • lowered sex drive
  • falling asleep while driving

Holmes says he was “shocked” to learn how many people suffer from the disorder when he first began working in a sleep lab at Carleton University.

“It is about 80 per cent underdiagnosed currently with the [Canadian] population,” Holmes says.

Low diagnosis rates are attributed, in part, to the nature of the condition: many of the most obvious symptoms, like snoring and pauses in breathing, happen while people are asleep. Others, like daytime drowsiness, are often brushed off as “normal” tiredness.

‘More muddled’

Holmes, a private sleep consultant whose clients include soldiers suffering PTSD and the Ottawa Senators hockey team, says sleep is a key to emotional, mental and physical health.

“Without quality sleep and the right amount of sleep every single night, we can really be putting ourselves at a disadvantage for peak performance,” Holmes says.

Diminished performance has been nagging at Arthur McGregor. He worries sleep deprivation is having a negative impact on his livelihood as a musician, plus he’s increasingly forgetting stuff.

“I honestly believe that I feel more muddled. I have — what’s the word I’m looking for? I have problems remembering things,” McGregor says.

Arthur McGregor averages five to six hours of sleep a night. He worries sleep deprivation is having a negative impact on his livelihood as a musician, as well as on his memory. (Duncan McCue/CBC)

For the past two decades, McGregor has averaged five to six hours of sleep a night. He has tried sleeping pills and various sleep aids, to no avail.

When his snoring began disrupting his wife’s sleep, McGregor’s doctor recommended a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. It’s a small bedside pump connected by a pipe to a mask, and it blows a stream of pressurized air to help keep a person’s airway open while they sleep.

His snoring improved; his quality of sleep did not.

“It gave me the idea that my sleeping problem was not an apnea sleeping problem, it was something else that was going on.”

Kim Clark, adjusting the equipment for her take-home sleep test, says she’s ‘always been a horrible sleeper.’ (Diane Grant/CBC)

Still using the CPAP, he recently changed his diet and lost 15 pounds to see if that would help. He agreed to takeThe National up on its offer of arranging a sleep test, because he was curious to see if weight loss had improved his sleep, as well as whether his memory loss was attributable to sleep or another health issue.

I’d like to know if I’m actually sleeping when I’m sleeping.– Carolyn McCann

Retired nurse Carolyn McCann took the test because she was keen to understand why she’s so restless through the night.

“I’d like to know if I’m actually sleeping when I’m sleeping,” McCann says.

Holmes describes to Carolyn McCann how the sleep test equipment works. (Duncan McCue/CBC)

Kim Clark says she’s learned to operate on four to six hours sleep a night out of necessity, but not by choice.

“If I could change anything about myself, it wouldn’t be my height or my weight or boob size, it would be my sleeping habits. I have always been a horrible sleeper.”

Holmes gave equipment to all three participants to monitor how they breathe during sleep.

They set up the take-home tests themselves, slept in their own beds, then returned to hear the results, which Holmes had reviewed with a physician and respirologist who specializes in sleep medicine.

‘Never imagined I had sleep apnea’

The data from the sleep tests shows the remarkable diversity of both sleep problems and potential solutions.

Clark slept more than she realized, nearly nine hours, and had few apnea events.

Holmes suggested simple meditation may improve her sleep by helping slow her heart down.

McGregor slept just under six hours. However, he was pleased to learn he had only 10 to 15 apnea events per hour, fewer than before he started using the CPAP machine.

Holmes advised him that a new CPAP facemask that fitted better might further improve his sleep.

There are many different models of CPAP machines on the market. The small bedside machines pump a constant flow of air through a pipe to a face mask, or a nose-piece like the one pictured here, keeping a person’s airway open as they sleep. (Reed Saxon/Associated Press)

McCann’s test was a different story.

While she slept nearly eight hours, she had as many as 24 apnea hypoxia events every hour, a moderate form of sleep apnea. Her oxygen levels sometimes dipped to 76 per cent, well below the recommended 90 per cent range, which suggests increased strain is being put on her cardiovascular system.

“I was really surprised,” McCann says. “I just never imagined that I had sleep apnea.”

McCann was dismayed by Holmes’ advice that she may need to use a CPAP device every night.

“That was an emotional reaction, not a logical one. Who wants to wear one of those things?” McCann says.

“I will certainly do something about it. I’m not just going to ignore it … I don’t want to die of a heart attack or a stroke.”

CPAP masks range from full nose-and-mouth models like this one, to small ones that cover just the nostrils. (Getty Images)

Holmes recognizes CPAP devices carry a stigma, but emphasizes that it’s not a reason to turn a blind eye to symptoms of a sleep issue.

He says sleep-deprived Canadians need to determine what’s causing the problem and take steps toward solutions, whether it’s a CPAP machine or changing diet and lifestyle.

“I know a lot of people think, ‘Oh man, that’s horrible news.’ It’s not. We’ve identified an issue, [now] we could potentially look to a remedy,” Holmes says.


More from CBC

Watch Duncan McCue’s story from The National on sleep apnea:

It may be to blame for that loud snoring, or morning headache. Plus, people who have it are more likely to suffer from things like heart disease and depression. It’s sleep apnea, and a large number of Canadians are at risk of the serious health effects that come with it. But surprisingly, few are aware of it. 10:11



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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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