Effects of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a disorder that causes your body to stop breathing while you sleep. It’s a potentially fatal condition, with harmful short- and long-term complications, that affects more than 1 in 3 men and 1 in 6 women.

What causes Sleep Apnea?

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Sleep Apnea, which more than 80% of sleep apnea patients have, occurs when enlarged and/or relaxed throat muscles obstruct your upper airway, blocking air from entering and leaving your lungs.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), so named for its relation to the central nervous system, occurs when the brain stops signalling for the body to breathe until it detects a lack of oxygen and/or a heightened level of carbon dioxide that needs to be exhaled.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea (CompSA) is a combination of Sleep Apnea and CSA.

Eventually, your brain senses that you’ve stopped breathing and causes you to wake up just enough to gasp and start breathing again. Then you fall back to sleep and the cycle begins again. This can happen more than 120 times every hour, even though you may not remember waking up.

As you can imagine, apneas put immense short- and long-term strains on the body.

Short-term effects of Sleep Apnea

Of course apneas cause the immediate life-threatening danger of not inhaling enough oxygen (or exhaling enough poisonous carbon dioxide). But the body’s constant waking due to these apneas can also cause sleep deprivation. This can lower people’s energy and attentiveness the next day, negatively affect their moods and relationships with others, and raise the risk for memory loss, cognitive impairment and injury.

Long-term effects of Sleep Apnea

Untreated Sleep Apnea has been linked to an increased risk for other chronic and life-threatening conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure)2and heart failure,as well as poorer glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes.4

The first step toward treating sleep apnea and living healthier is recognizing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and asking your doctor to get screened and tested.

Roughly 80% of people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it,partly because they can never witness their own night time symptoms.

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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/