Is Sleeping Killing You?

Sleeping can affect your health.

Sleep is required for good health. Our bodies repair themselves while we are sleeping. However, sleep must be quality sleep. That means that you fall asleep within 30 minutes and sleep through the night without awakening. If you do wake up, then falling back to sleep within 20 minutes constitutes quality sleep.

Snoring, sleepwalking, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, REM sleep behavior disorder, and other sleep disorders can affect your health. Some disorders can be life-threatening. I was asked a question this past weekend during a presentation on health and wellness about sleep apnea. I was unable to answer the question. It wasn’t something I’ve researched. The following is a quick summary of sleep apnea.

Eighteen million adults have sleep apnea. There are two forms of sleep apnea. One is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the other is central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is the most common. It is caused by a blockage of the airway. CSA occurs when the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. OSA and CSA can affect anyone at any age.

What exactly is sleep apnea? It is a sleep disorder in which your breathing stops repeatedly during your sleep. These sleep interruptions can last ten seconds or longer. OSA can sometimes occur when the muscles in the back of your throat fail to keep your airway open and choke your breathing. The end result of repeated breaks in the normal breathing cycle results in disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation.

Risk factors for sleep apnea include being male, being overweight, being over 40 years of age, having a large neck size (over 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women), having large tonsils, having a large tongue, having a small jaw bone, allergies, sinus problems, and a deviated septum,

Why is sleep apnea dangerous? If left untreated, there is an increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, diabetes, depression, headaches, and more. Some doctors feel that chronic snoring is a strong indicator of sleep apnea. Any disrupted sleep pattern will leave you drowsy day after day. This continual lethargy results in difficulty concentrating, depression, irritability, learning and memory difficulties, etc.

Assume you might have sleep apnea. What can you do? If you have a sleep partner, ask him or her to check on you to observe you when you are sleeping. Did you snore heavily, choke, gasp, or stop breathing? If yes, then you should see a physician soon. Your doctor will examine you and may recommend you for a sleep center evaluation. Take your list of medications with you. A sleep center will monitor your overnight sleep and be able to better diagnose your sleep malady.

The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. It fits over your nose and/or mouth and forces air into your airway to keep it open. Other treatments include dental appliances, upper airway surgery, nasal expiratory pressure, and hypoglossal nerve stimulation

What lifestyle options do you have? The first is to lose weight if you are overweight. Avoid alcohol and quit smoking. Lie on your side rather than your back. Yoga has helped some people. Use a humidifier. Some people use emotional freedom techniques (EFT) to address sleep apnea.

If you are tired all day, every day, talk to your doctor about a possible sleep disorder.


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