I’VE BEEN THINKING
Carol Goodman Heizer is an author who moved to Hood County from Louisville, Kentucky in 2019. She has had short stories and articles published in six editions of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. Her column for the Hood County News will appear every two weeks. She was a public school teacher for 17 years, earlier in her professional career.
The role of sleep is being better understood by the medical community, and we now know there are proven health benefits from getting adequate rest. Most adults are advised to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
No one would question the fact that the brain controls the body and functions on oxygen. But approximately 164 million people (half the population) in the United States suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). It is a sleep disorder caused by the collapse of the airway in the back of the nose, mouth, and throat during sleep. It falls under the umbrella of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It is a term used to describe progressive lung diseases – including emphysema and chronic bronchitis that kills approximately three million people each year around the world.
This is a serious problem and should not be taken lightly, so what are the symptoms of this condition? Primarily, if individuals experience snoring, choking, or gasping during sleep, stopped breathing during sleep, and fatigue or sleepiness during the daytime – they are experiencing it. This daytime struggle manifests itself from being edgy at the least to “everything irritates me” to a “walking and talking zombie” at the most.
Exactly what is OSA? It is a chronic condition that can cause poor quality sleep and affect one’s overall mood. It can also raise the risk of serious health problems such as: high blood pressure – if left untreated, 45% of OSA patients who do not have high blood pressure will develop it within four years; heart disease – as many as 80% of these patients have OSA; stroke – 55% of these patients have OSA, and 84 % of brainstem strokes are associated with sleep apnea; Type 2 diabetes – 24% to 86% of these patients have OSA; cardiovascular death – these patients have five times the risk of dying from heart problems than those without sleep apnea; and depression – there is a higher rate among OSA patients than in the general population. Obviously, such problems can affect your general health and increase the risk of death. When a person’s oxygen saturation level drops to 78% or less, these patients’ risk of death is increased by 80%.
And what about those automobile rides home after a long day of work (accompanied by poor sleep the night before)? Or even an afternoon drive in the country for relaxation? Estimates reveal that drowsy drivers cause more than 100,000 police-reported auto accidents and more than 1,500 deaths every year.
There are two side effects of poor sleep that most people do not consider. First, a lack of sleep increases hunger and cravings, especially for high carb and fat junk foods The average person suffering from poor sleep quality generally takes in 22% more calories the following day. Second, a lack of sleep makes you fat. Poor sleep leads to a slower metabolism and (combined with the increased cravings), creates the perfect formula for weight gain. One study showed that just five nights of poor sleep generally leads to a one-and-a-half-pound weight gain. Imagine what a prolonged period of poor sleep can do to one’s waistline!
Additional side effects of poor sleep can lead to the following: an older-looking appearance because the skin cannot adequately recover from sun exposure; distraction and forgetfulness because the brain’s lymphatic system (that clears out neurotoxic waste) is most active during sleep; bad decisions and self-destructive behavior, leading to irritability, moodiness, and anger, which make everything more difficult – particularly in today’s stressful world.
This had been the badnews. But there is good news. Sleep apnea can be treated effectively. It is the ultimate defense. It can stop, and even reverse, damage already present. But early detection and treatment is a “must.” The longer it continues, the worse the damage.
Many sleep apnea patients use the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine that sends a constant flow of airway pressure to your throat to help your airway stay open during sleep. It effectively treats the spontaneous pauses in breathing associated with sleep apnea.
If all other treatments have failed in treating the sleep apnea, the newest procedure is the surgical procedure known as the Inspire implant that operates on a similar principle as a pacemaker. However, instead of working to regulate heart rate, the Inspire works to make breathing regular. Talk to your pulmonologist about this procedure.
In conclusion, if you suspect you or your bed partner have OSA or sleep apnea, talk to your general practitioner or sleep medicine specialist (often referred to as Defenders of Sleep) immediately. Your life and health can depend on it!