What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is the most common sleep disorder. This is mainly characterized by repeated upper airway disturbances during sleep, which causes breathing to stop for some seconds, throughout the night. This interrupted breathing causes a significant drop in oxygen levels in the blood, resulting in an episode of Apnea.

People who suffer from Sleep Apnea may snort, or gasp loudly as breathing resumes during sleep. It can also cause choking due to obstructed airways.


What are the major causes of Sleep Apnea?

There are several factors that contribute to the onset of Sleep Apnea in people. These range from your body weight, to the formation and shape of your tongue.

  • Being overweight can cause Sleep Apnea, as soft and fat tissues tend to thicken the walls of the windpipe, which obstructs the pathway of air.
What is Sleep Apnea
  • Your tongue size can also cause Sleep Apnea. If the tongue is thicker or larger than the opening in the windpipe, it will disrupt the passage of air into the windpipe, making it difficult to breathe while you are asleep.
  • A condition called deviated septum can also trigger Sleep Apnea among many individuals. Deviated septum is a result of the deviated bone and cartilage (septum), that divides the nasal cavity in half - is placed off-centre or is crooked. This disrupts your normal breathing. However, only severe conditions of imbalance of the septum lead to Sleep Apnea1.
  • Smoking and alcohol are also associated with several forms of breathing problems and can be a trigger to cause problems like Sleep Apnea.
  • Ageing also affects breathing patterns. Ageing weakens the ability of the brain signals to indicate the throat muscles, to stay stiff while you are asleep. The airway either narrows or collapses because of this, giving rise to Sleep Apnea.
  • Other medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes are also causal factors of breathing issues in Sleep Apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea

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Sleep Revitalizes your Mind, Body, & Heart

The body goes under many transformations, while it is in the state of rest during sleep. There are many essential functions that take place in the body such as tissue repair, memory and energy restoration, release of essential hormones, muscle relaxation, and others. While you are asleep, the brain releases indispensable hormones that promote tissue growth. This process helps your body rejuvenate from the daily hustle bustle. Moreover, tissue growth aids in the recovery from wounds or cuts. Sunita Kumar, Co-Director, Centre for Sleep Disorders, Loyola University Medical Centre, aptly remarks that during sleep the body produces more white blood cells, to fight countless bacteria and viruses1. The heart rate also registers a dip during sleep, which according to Ms. Kumar, strengthens the heart as it is at rest with lowered activity. Moreover, a good night’s sleep also reduces the chances of getting afflicted with heart diseases.

Good Sleep = Sharp Memory

Sleep is a time, when becomes sharp and strong. Sleep quantity and quality play a fundamental role in determining what one remembers and what one doesnt. Therefore, development of long-term memory (LTM) from short-term memory (STM) happens during sleep.  Scientific researches state that the brain follows a different mechanism for storing memories through the hippocampus and neo-cortex areas. Hippocampus helps you to remember your life experiences (childhood memories), while the neo-cortex is responsible for remembering the concepts you learn (name of a color). Communications and sync between the two, helps in learning new data and updating old ones.

Sleep Steers Hormonal Hunger

Sleep not only affects your energy levels and mental functions, but also regulates your body weight. Improper sleep is related to the increasing cases of obesity, worldwide2. Many hormones which regulate the feeling of hunger (ghrelin) and signal the feeling of being full (leptin), are all influenced by the quality of your sleep.  Leptin: This is also known as satiety hormone, which is produced by the fat cells of the body. It prevents overeating by sending signals to the brain that the body does not require more food, as there is enough to fuel the body.  Ghrelin: This hunger hormone is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, which signifies the body that there is need for food. This hormone rises in the body, when you feel hungry and decreases when you have consumed some food.  Studies show that people who have disrupted patterns of sleep - have larger appetite, because of higher ghrelin secretion and lowered secretion of leptin. This imbalance in the secretion of these hormones is a result of improper sleep patterns3.

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Reference

1

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/discomfort-15/better-sleep/healing-power-sleep?page=2

2

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/

3

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/