Sleep Apnea

by Bella Rum

This healthier lifestyle project that H and I have embarked upon is going well, but it’s a slow process. Why does it take so long? I know, I know. It took a long time to get in the shape I’m in, and it will take a while to repair the damage.

We’re actually enjoying the way we’re eating, and though exercise remains my biggest challenge, I do feel better when I exercise on a regular basis – especially mentally. I wish I could say that I’m sleeping better, but last week was a very bad week.

I’m wondering if a visit to a sleep clinic is in order. I suspect that I may have sleep apnea. I don’t really know much about it, but I sometimes wake in the middle of the night gasping for air. Once in a while, I can actually feel myself stop breathing when I first drift off to sleep. My annual checkup is coming up soon, and this will be one of the things I address with my doctor.

The Greek word “apnea” literally means “without breath.” There are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed; of the three, obstructive is the most common. Despite the difference in the root cause of each type, in all three, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches.

Source: Sleep Apnea Dot Org

Sleep apnea is very common. It affects more than twelve million Americans (more men than women), but because of the lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals, most people remain undiagnosed and untreated. So I’m going to mention this to my doctor on my next visit.

Though it’s normal for the amount of time we sleep to diminish slightly with age, we’re not supposed to feel exhausted the next day. In other words, we actually require a little less sleep as we age and can function sufficiently without that extra sleep. My daughter-in-law sent me a good article on this, but I can’t find it now. The difference with sleep apnea is that you don’t feel refreshed the following day.  It will be interesting to see how this turns out.