Announcing the New Book Cover for Sleep, Interrupted

April 6, 2015

New Sleep Interrupted CoverWell over 300 of you voted for the new cover for my book, Sleep, Interrupted. The clear winner by far was choice #4, with 35% of the vote. The three other options were split evenly around 20 to 21%. Personally, I had a preference for #4 as well. We should be uploading this new cover within a few weeks. Thanks for helping me make this important decision.

Stay tuned for your chance to help me choose the cover for my forthcoming book, The Sleep Apnea Solution: Dr. Park’s Complete Guide to Getting the Sleep You Need and the Life You Want.

Attention All Mouth Breathers – 5 Important Reasons Why You Must Breathe Through Your Nose

March 30, 2015

If you’re a chronic mouth breather because of a stuffy nose, you’re not alone. As the weather chills and allergies and colds abound, and nasal congestion becomes a common trend, mouth breathing inevitably follows-especially when you’re sleeping. I’m sure you’ve seen many passengers asleep on the subways and trains, head and pitched back, mouth wide open, and snoring louder than a diesel engine. Mouth breathing can surely ruin your social image, but that’s nothing compared to the havoc it can wreak on your health.


5 Potent Benefits of Breathing through Your nose

One of the most important reasons to breathe through your nose is because of a gas called nitric oxide that’s made by your nose and sinus mucous membranes. This gas is produced in small amounts, but when inhaled into the lungs, it significantly enhances your lung’s capacity to absorb oxygen, increasing oxygen absorption in your lungs by 10-25%. Nitric oxide also can kill bacteria, viruses and other germs. This is why you often hear fitness and yoga instructors emphasize inhaling and exhaling through your nose during workouts.

Also, if you can’t breathe well through your nose, your sense of smell will suffer and therefore your sense of taste, since your smell and taste buds are connected. This can lead to disturbances in your appetite and satiation levels, wreaking havoc on those struggling with weight issues.

Your nose also has vital nervous system connections to your lungs and heart. Not breathing well through your nose can alter your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as increase your stress responses.

Your nose makes about 2 pints of mucous every day. If your nose isn’t working properly and mucous isn’t cleared, the stagnant mucous can lead to infections such as sinusitis or ear infections, not to mention bad breath.

Lastly, not breathing well through your nose can aggravate snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Nasal congestion alone doesn’t cause obstructive sleep apnea, but it can definitely aggravate it. If your palate and tongue structures are predisposed to falling back easily due to sleeping on your back and muscle relaxation in deep sleep, then having a stuffy nose can aggravate further collapse downstream. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Knowing all these benefits of breathing through your nose, however, doesn’t help much if you don’t know why you’re not able to do so.  To stop mouth breathing, the first thing you must do is to figure out what’s blocking up your nose.

What Can Stop Up Your Nose

Nasal congestion is something everyone experiences now and again. Yet, if you’re trying to prevent this from happening it’s important to explore the various reasons behind why and when this occurs.

Here are five of the most common reasons for a stuffy nose:

“I Have a Deviated Septum

By definition everyone has a slightly crooked (deviated) nasal septum. There are various reasons for having a deviated septum, including trauma, but the most common reason is no reason at all. It’s just the way your nose developed. What’s more important than how deviated your septum is is what’s happening in front of an around your septum.

Wings in Your Nose 

Turbinates are wing-like structures that attach to the sidewalls of the nasal cavity, opposite the midline nasal septum. They normally smooth, warm, humidify, and filter the air that you breathe, but they also become enlarged and produce mucous when inflamed. Turbinates also swell and shrink alternating from side to side, which is a normal neurologic process called the nasal cycle.

Is It An Infection or Allergies?

If you have allergies, a cold or any kind of infection, then your turbinates will swell up, clogging your nose with lots of mucous production. Contrary to popular belief, the color of the mucous has no relation to bacterial vs. viral infections.

Flimsy Nostrils 

Once you have inflammation and swelling inside your nose, for some people, depending on the configuration of your nose, your nostrils can literally cave in as you inhale. Different noses have differently shaped nostrils with various nostril thicknesses. The more narrow your nose, the more likely your nostrils can cave in. People who undergo cosmetic rhinoplasty are more at risk years later, since narrowing the nose can weaken the support structures of the nose.

A Nervous Nose? 

Some people’s noses are extra sensitive, especially to weather changes, like temperature, humidity, and pressure changes. Certain chemicals, scents and odors can set off a reaction as well. Many people mistakenly think this reaction is an allergy, but it’s really your nasal nervous system over-reacting to the weather or to odors. One of the most common reasons is from poor quality sleep, which causes a low-grade stress response, which can heighten your senses.

It’s All Under Your Nose

A chronically stuffy nose doesn’t happen by itself. Usually it’s part of a bigger picture, where the entire upper and lower jaws are more narrow and constricted, in addition to more narrow nasal cavities. I’ve described this process in my book, Sleep Interrupted, where due to modern human’s eating soft, mushy, processed foods, our jaws are much more narrow than normal, with dental crowding. Bottle-feeding, which is another modern, Western phenomenon, is also thought to aggravate this problem.

If you have a stuffy nose, it can also aggravate soft palate and tongue collapse when in deep sleep, due to muscle relaxation. With more obstruction, more stomach juices are suctioned up into the throat and nose, causing more swelling and more nasal congestion. All this from smaller and more narrow jaws. 

5 Reasons Why Your Nose is Stuffy

March 20, 2015

A repost of an article on why your nose is stuffy this allergy season.

Although many people assume that big nosed people naturally breathe better, there’s nothing further from the truth.  The shape and size of your nose is mostly cosmetic. How well you breathe actually depends on what your internal breathing passageways look like. And for many sleep apnea sufferers, a stuffy nose can make or break their treatment therapy.

Yet, opening up the nose through medical therapy or even surgery has been found to “cure” sleep apnea in only 10% of people. Patients will definitely feel and breathe better, but it’s unlikely that their sleep apnea is addressed definitively. However, I have seen many of the people in the “10%” group derive significant benefits from clearing up their nasal congestion. Besides breathing better for the first time in years, opening up the nose can allow the person to tolerate and benefit from other treatment options for OSA besides CPAP.

Why Is My Nose Stuffy?

Problem #1:  Deviated Nasal Septum

One of the more common reasons for a stuffy nose is due to a deviated nasal septum. A “septum” is a term that describes a structure that acts as a wall or separator between two cavities. Your heart has one too. No one has a perfectly flat or straight septum.

All septums, by definition, have slight irregularities or curvatures. A major reason for a crooked septum, unbeknownst to many people, even other doctors, is because your jaw never developed fully. Most people with sleep apnea have narrow upper jaws, which pushes up the roof of your mouth into your nasal cavity, which causes your septum to buckle.

If medical options don’t help you to breathe better through your nose, then you may be a candidate for a septoplasty. To get a much more detailed explanation about this procedure see the accompanying article, Myth and Truths About Septoplasty.

Problem #2. Flimsy Nostrils

In some people, the space between the nasal septum and the soft part of both nostrils is either too narrow to begin with, or they collapse partially or completely during inspiration. In many cases, this can be seen years after reduction rhinoplasty, where the nose was made smaller or narrowed for cosmetic reasons. Occasionally, people can have naturally thin and floppy nostrils.

Another common reason for flimsy nostrils is due to a narrow upper jaw. The width of your nose follows the width of your jaw. If the angle between the midline septum and the nostril sidewall is more narrow than normal, then it’s more likely to collapse with any degree of internal nasal congestion. It’s not surprising that people with sleep-breathing disorders will typically have narrower jaws, and thus more susceptible to nostril collapse. Certain ethnicities are also more prone to this phenomenon than others.

One way that you can easily tell if you have this problem is to perform the Cottle maneuver: Place both index fingers on your face just beside your nostrils. While pressing firmly against your face and simultaneously pulling the skin next to the nostril apart towards the outer corners of your eyes, breathe in quickly. Then let go and breathe in again. If there is a major improvement in your quality of breathing while performing this maneuver, then you have what’s called nasal valve collapse.

The simplest way of correcting nasal valve collapse is by using nasal dilator strips, or Breathe-Rite® strips. If you do the Cottle maneuver and there is no significant difference in your breathing, don’t waste money buying these strips. If you perceive an improvement in your breathing, you can continue using the strips at night while you sleep. For some people, these “strips” are not strong enough to hold up the nostrils, or may cause irritation to the skin.

There are also many other “internal” options available over the counter, including metal springs or plastic cones that are placed inside the nostrils. People tolerate these particular devices differently, so the only way to know if you’ll like them is to try them. Three examples are Breathe With EEZ, Nozovent, and Sinus Cones.

 To find out if your nasal valve collapse is from weak or flimsy cartilages or is aggravated by internal nasal congestion, you can spray nasal saline (which is a mild decongestant) into your nose. If your nostrils doesn’t collapse as much, then you need to address your internal nasal congestion first. A stronger over-the-counter medication that you can use is oxymetazoline, which is a topical spray decongestant. There are many brand name and generic versions that are sold that contain this ingredient. It’s very important that you don’t use this medication for more than two to three days—otherwise, you may get addicted to it.

If you want a permanent solution to this problem without having to use dilator strips or internal devices, the only option is surgery. The traditional way of dealing with this issue is to perform a kind of reconstructive rhinoplasty surgery, usually by taking small portions of your nasal septal cartilage or ear cartilage and placing in underneath the weakened portions of your nostril walls. A newer, simpler way of addressing this problem is by attaching a permanent suture just underneath the eye socket and tunneling the suture under the skin and looping it around the weakened area to suspend the nostril to prevent collapse.

Problem #3: Wings in Your Nose

Another common source of nasal congestion is from swelling of your nasal turbinates, which are the wing-like structures on the side-walls of the nasal cavity opposite the septum. Turbinates are comprised of bone on the inside and mucous membrane on the out- side. The area just underneath the mucous membrane is filled with blood vessels which can swell significantly. As the turbinates swell due to allergies, colds, or weather changes, the air passageways narrow further, especially if you have a mildly deviated nasal septum, and particularly if you have nasal valve collapse.

One of the most common misunderstandings that I see by both doctors and patients alike is that they think that swollen turbinates are polyps. The nasal turbinates can swell so much that you can sometimes see the reddish-pink, fleshy grape-like mass through your nostrils. Once decongested, they shrink dramatically and the air passageways open up again.

If conservative treatment including prescription allergy medications don’t work, various surgical options are available from very conservative 5 minute in-office procedures to more aggressive procedures that are performed in the operating room. These procedures are usually performed alongside a septoplasty to improve nasal breathing.

Problem #4: Sinusitis

If you suffer from sinusitis, this can cause nasal congestion and inflammation combined with post-nasal drip, sinus pressure, and pain. Put simply, pure misery. Sinus infections typically follow either a routine cold or allergy attack; they cause both swelling and blockage of the sinus passageways, leading to negative pressure initially and, if allowed to progress, can turn into a full-blown sinus infection, with yellow-green discharge, fever and severe facial pain. Your teeth can also hurt since the roots of the upper molars jut up into the floor of the maxillary sinuses. Similarly, dental pain can sometimes feel like sinus pain.

Fortunately, most cases of sinus congestion will eventually go away. The body has a remarkable ability to take care of these issues without any intervention. Sometimes bacterial infections occur, and with proper conservative treatment using saline and decongestants, the infection gradually resolves. Rarely, you may need an antibiotic to control stubborn bacterial infections.

Problem #5: Poor Sleep

As you can see from the above discussion, there are a number of various reasons for having a stuffy nose. But the most common reason for nasal congestion that I see routinely is due to inefficient breathing and poor sleep. This is why sleep apnea sufferers, more often than not, suffer relentlessly from nasal congestion. 

Without a doubt, structural reasons like allergies or nasal polyps can definitely block your nose and these issues must be dealt with appropriately. But in general, it’s the inflammation that’s created by a combination of your hypersensitive nasal nervous system and possible stomach acid regurgitation into the nose from multiple obstructions and arousals, that causes nasal congestion. Without addressing this underlying source of inflammation, correcting a deviated nasal septum or treating for nasal allergies will only provide a temporary solution.


Ask Dr. Park Your Question About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

March 3, 2015

My monthly Ask Dr. Park Teleseminars in years past were very popular with many of you. It was also a way for me to understand the frustrations and pains for those of you with obstructive sleep apnea. I truly enjoyed the live Q&A format, but due to recent time constraints from my new academic position, I’ve had to transition my telesemianrs to pre-recorded podcasts. My recent 3-part podcast series on Vitamin D and sleep with Dr. Stasha Gominak was extremely well-received, with well over 2000 downloads so far. 

As a way of connecting with you again, I’ve decided to re-launch my Ask Dr. Park series, but in a different format. Submit your one question in the text field below, and I’ll try to answer as many as I can. I will then select a handful of questions to answer on an upcoming Ask Dr. Park podcast. If possible, please state at least your first name, where you live, and a brief question. I’ll try to choose questions that can help as many people as possible. 

Please enter your question for Dr. Park below.

Podcast #5: Interview With Dr. Stasha Gominak on How Low Vitamin D Can Ruin Your Sleep (Part 3)

February 25, 2015

This is part 3 and the final segment of my conversation with Dr. Stasha Gominck, a neurologist with some very insightful information about vitamin d and how it’s vitally related not only to sleep, but to every aspect of your health. As mentioned previously, Vitamin D is actually a hormone that’s needed by every area of your body, including your brain. 
In this segment, Gominak is going to tell us
  • How to optimize growth hormone release
  • The link between slow wave sleep and the B vitamins
  • How this b vitamin can help REM behavior disorder 
  • How much Vit D is made in your skin by sunlight
  • Vitamin D’s anti-cancer properties
  • The importance of quality sleep and cancer prevention

Download MP3 audio file

NY Time article on Meditation for a Good Night’s Sleep.

Mindfulness meditation sites:,, and

CBT-i sites: cbtreferee, CBT-i coach and cbtforinsomnia

Visit Dr. Gominak at
Subscribe in iTunes. I would appreciate it if you can rate my podcast and provide feedback within iTunes.
Please leave your feedback or any comments about this episode in the space below.

Podcast #004: Interview With Dr. Stasha Gominak on How Low Vitamin D Can Ruin Your Sleep (Part 2)

February 19, 2015

This is Part 2 of my interview with Dr. Stasha Gominak, a neurologist practicing in Tyler, Texas. Dr. Gominak has unique views on how Vitamin D can significantly affect the quality of your sleep, independent of obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome. In this intervew, she will reveal:

How B vitamins interact with Vitamin D
How B vitamins are related to fibromyalgia
The link between irritable bowel syndrome and headaches
How Vit D is linked with weight gain
What’s the right dose of B vitamins? And for how long?
Which vitamins are made in your gut?
 Download audio file
Visit Dr. Gominak at
Subscribe in iTunes. I would appreciate it if you can rate my podcast and provide feedback within iTunes.
Please leave your feedback or any comments about this episode in the space below.

Podcast #003: Interview With Dr. Stasha Gominak on How Low Vitamin D Can Ruin Your Sleep (Part 1)

February 11, 2015

This is Part 1 of my interview with Dr. Stasha Gominak, a neurologist practicing in Tyler, Texas. Dr. Gominak has unique views on how Vitamin D can significantly affect the quality of your sleep, independent of obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome. In this intervew, she will reveal:

1. How Vitamin D is related to sleep
2. Why Vitamin D3 is better than D2
3. How Mice and Pigs Confused Doctors About Vitamin D
4. Why Sleep became much worse in the 1980s
5. How much Vitamin D do we need?
Download audio file
Visit Dr. Gominak at
Vitamin D Council
Dr. Walter E. Stumpf
Subscribe in iTunes. I would appreciate it if you can rate my podcast and provide feedback within iTunes.
Please leave your feedback or any comments about this episode in the space below.

The Most Misunderstood And Often Overlooked Treatment For Sleep Apnea (HINT: It’s NOT CPAP)

January 21, 2015

John Wooten, UCLA’s legendary basketball coach was a stickler for fundamentals. He looked down on trick plays, fancy footwork, or high-tech strategies. Similarly, before looking for state-of-the-art treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea, you should always first consider the fundamentals. 
If you’ve been newly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you’re likely to be told to lose weight, diet and exercise. Everyone know this already. Avoiding alcohol is another big no-no, since it relaxes your throat muscles. 
One option that is mentioned only casually is to avoid sleeping on your back. This is because being on your back allows your tongue and soft tissues of your throat to fall back more severely. When you add muscle relaxation during deeper levels of sleep, then you’ll either snore, or stop breathing altogether (called an apnea). 
In sleep studies, you’ll routinely see that in most cases, being on your back can lead to double, or even triple the number of apneas on your back compared to sleeping on your side or tummy. One study showed that sleep positioning was almost as good as CPAP.
Many people know not to sleep on their backs. The problem is that in most cases, you can’t control your sleep position all night long. 
If you are one of these people, then there’s an opportunity to use gravity to your advantage. 
One of the oldest recommendation is to sew a tennis ball inside a sock to the back of your pajamas. This may work sometimes, but more often than not, you’ll just sleep on top of it, or it’ll keep annoying you causing you to wake up. One of my patients misunderstood me and filled an entire backpack with tennis balls during sleep, and it worked well for him.
There are now multiple options for keeping you off your back during sleep. One popular option is the Rematee Anti-snore shirt. It’s a vest that you wear at night with pockets in the back that’s filled with inflatable bumpers. 
Another variation is the isidesleep mattress, which is an inclined wedge with a cutout at the top that allow you to drop your arm below the mattress, which cradling your head on a pillow that sits above the cutout. 
If you have shoulder or back problems and you can’t sleep on your side, then sleeping on your back on a incline is another option. There are a number of different options that you can find including this wedge pillow. This can be also be good for acid reflux. It’s also why some people can only sleep on recliners.
If you must sleep on your back, then it’s important to use a pillow that will tilt your head back somewhat, which will open up your airway. This is similar to what you do as the first step in CPR, but not as far back. There are many of these “contour memory foam” pillows that are promoted to reduce snoring. It’s not going to cure your sleep apnea, but used in conjunction with various other methods, it can help to various degrees.
Two of my patients wore neck braces (one soft and one hard) with some success. This may work by preventing your chin from dropping forward, while keeping your neck extended.
If you must sleep on your back, there aren’t too may options. One desperate patient actually bought a massage table and slept tummy down with his face inside the hole. 
As a last resort, you can always fly into space, where there’s no gravity. In fact, it’s been shown that astronauts have less snoring and apneas while in space compared to levels found back on earth.
If none of these options work for you, then it’s time to see a sleep physician. If you’re already using CPAP or an oral appliance, you can supplement positional therapy to your current regimen. Oftentimes, you’ll have to combine multiple options for better results.
I’m sure that many of you have tried other creative ways to get rid of snoring using positioning devices or contractions. If so, please share what worked for you in the comments area below.

How Breathing Exercises Can Help Your Headaches

January 15, 2015

Suzy is a 49 year old woman who saw me for daily headaches, ear pain, and fatigue. Her routine blood tests all came back normal. I helped her breathe better though her nose with allergy control, nasal saline irrigation, and nasal dilator strips. But the one thing she said helped the most was the deep-breathing exercises that I taught her.
In yogic breathing, the relaxing breath is performed by taking a slow, deep breath in through your nose on a count of 4, holding for a few seconds, and then breathing out slowly through your mouth on a count of 7. Then the cycle is repeated 4 to 5 times. I had her do this exercise multiple times per day: upon awakening, in-between major tasks or activities, and for 5 minutes just before bedtime. 
Noted integrative physician Andrew Weil has pointed out the breathing in (inhalation) stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response), whereas breathing out (exhalation) stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxing response). So by spending more time breathing out, the more relaxed you’ll be.
Another key concept to consider in Buteyko breathing is that by slowing down your breathing, you’re able to raise carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, which can make you calmer and feel more relaxed. During my neurosurgery rotation in my surgical internship year, I distinctly remember that we gave acetazolamide to lower intracranial pressures. Acetazolamide raises CO2, which is known to lower pressure inside your brain cavity.
In the sleep apnea research literature, obstructive sleep apnea has been strongly associated with elevated pressures within the brain cavity. One study found increased pressure, worse during sleep and highest in REM sleep, when apneas are most common. Pressures were also higher in the morning compared with evening pressures. This may explain morning headaches which are commonly seen in people with sleep apnea. Another small study reported on six adult patients with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) who all had various degrees of vision loss, and swelling of the optic nerve. One patient received acetazolamide alone, four received both acetazolamide and CPAP, and one got CPAP alone. Four had complete return of their vision loss and three had no more swelling of the optic nerve after treatment. 
This is one example of how many natural healing options may work to various degrees, with scientific explanations. 
How many of you practice deep-breathing exercises on a regular basis? How has your life improved as a result of doing these exercises? Please enter your responses in the box below.

How Doctors Are Making You Fat

January 2, 2015

Now that it’s the day after New Years, many of you likely made a resolution to lose weight. I’m not going to go into any detail about what you should eat or how you should exercise, since that’s not my area of expertise. What I can say is that poor sleep in general will promote weight gain. It’s also known that sleep deprivation will cause cravings for sugary, starchy, salty and fatty foods. Gaining weight will promote obstructive sleep apnea. Lack of energy and exercise will further enhance more weight gain, and the vicious cycle continues. 

However, one important aspect of weight gain (or not being able to lose weight) is the importance of prescription medications. I wrote a post a few months ago on 7 common prescription medications that can cause weight gain. I think it’s important to take a look at it again. Check to see if any of the medications that you’re taking is on this list. 

If you’ve gained significant weight since taking any of these medications, please tell me your story in the comments section below.

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The material on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and is not and should not be relied upon or construed as medical, surgical, psychological, or nutritional advice. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your medical regimen, exercise or diet program. Some links may go to products on, for which Jodev Press is an associate member.

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