For the last 7 years, I’ve been working with patients with obstructive sleep apnea, and it has always seriously amazed me how little sleep many people get.  Some sleep 3 hours or less a night, and some wake up 4-5 times or more a night, and plenty have been living like this for years.  Many of these patients snore loudly forcing couples to sleep apart in different rooms. I have many patients that have not slept well, for example, since their 1st child was born and that child is now an adult with his own children!  The stories I’ve heard are usually sad and frustrating for the patient and family members. Sleep-deprived patients can present as irritable, listless, at their wit’s end, and a few, even hyper. Many patients end up in my dental office as a last resort because they have tried every over the counter remedy/device, every pharmaceutical, herb or sleep supplement like melatonin, antidepressants, psychotherapy, and of course CPAP/BiPAP.

I am fortunate to sleep well (7-8 hours almost every night) but had experienced the inability to sleep during the last trimesters of both my pregnancies, 13 and 11 years ago (link to my personal lack of sleep article). So, in a small way, I can relate to the pain of people that cannot sleep. And it is painful, both mentally and physically. For most cases, it is chronic pain… every…single…night.

In the last few years, it has become overwhelmingly clear to me that one of the main underlying factors of poor sleep is poor ability to breathe.   As a modern man, there are many reasons our breathing skills have become less efficient. Part of it has to do with our anatomical posture. We were not created to sit at a desk for hours. We weren’t even created to sit in chairs. A sitting position pushes on our diaphragm in a negative way causing inefficiency.  Many of us have also evolved into mouth breathers versus normal nose breathers, which is unhealthy and unnatural.  This can be caused by childhood ear infections, allergies or just living in forced air environments.

At its heart, will always be a focus on learning how to breathe: properly, efficiently and optimally. Breathing well is associated with how well we sleep, it changes with how much we move and exercise, and it enhances our mental state.

I have also realized that, although I have helped many patients sleep better with my dental appliances, they need so much more than I can offer. No one provider can address a person’s sleep issues completely, and certainly not a dentist!

However, as a dentist, I know the inside of the mouth well. For 16 years I have been so focused, so myopic in my skill set and specialty training that at some point I lost the forest for the trees. It has taken me 16 years to slowly learn that the mouth, and what I do to it, affects the rest of the head!  Only in the past few years have I come to appreciate that the head and neck are also connected to the rest of the body!  The ignorance is embarrassing, and this compartmentalization of the body is something that I believe is what is partly wrong with healthcare today. We providers have lost the sense that the knee bone really is connected to the thigh bone.

For the past year, I have dreamed of working in a total wellness building in Anchorage where I can send my patients down the hall: to a nutritionist who can help them lose weight, to a trusted primary care doctor or nurse who will listen to their lifetime struggles and health history for longer than 10 minutes, to a physical therapist who can help with postural issues, to the yoga studio where they can learn to breathe and relax, to the acupuncturist and chiropractor, etc. In my fantasy building, all the providers collaborate. Just imagine!

It is now February 24, 2017, in Anchorage, Alaska. My funding, time and energy for a building do not exist. But the providers and resources in this state do. I feel fortunate to have worked with many of them. This website is meant to serve as a virtual total wellness building for my patients and introduce them to as many healthy alternatives as possible. It is a place where we all can learn what is out there because, in this fast-paced society that we live in, everyone (including providers) have almost too much to learn. It is my hope as well, that Live, Breathe Alaska will serve as a resource for all Alaskans willing to take charge of their own health.

At its heart, will always be a focus on learning how to breathe: properly, efficiently and optimally. Breathing well is associated with how well we sleep, it changes with how much we move and exercise, and it enhances our mental state.

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Dr. Owen Mandanas is a Family Dentist who has immersed herself in Integrative Health. A large portion of her practice is dedicated to sleep-breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. Her passion is studying craniofacial anatomy and development in children and adults knowing that anatomical structures can be directly related to breathing poorly or optimally. Dr. Owen is an outdoor enthusiast who loves spending time with her family and serving her community. Dr. Mandanas earned her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. She has studied and become certified in the DNA appliance with Dr. Dave Singh at Biomodeling Solutions, Dr. Ljuba Lemke in the AFL appliance, and with the Postural Restoration Institute.

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