Sleep apnea

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This text is part of: "Science of sleep" by Piotr Wozniak (2017)

Sleep apnea is a problem with breathing during sleep. In all cases of getting unrefreshing sleep despite adhering to all the rules of sleep hygiene (esp. in free running sleep), sleep apnea needs to be ruled out. An initial home-made diagnosis may be made by a bed partner or by video-taping one's own sleep. All pauses in breathing or heavy snoring should be worrisome and consulted with a sleep expert. The most frequent type of sleep apnea is the obstructive sleep apnea(OSA), which affects up to 10% of male population (it is about half as frequent in women). OSA involves a loss of muscle tone in the throat and tongue areas. These structures tend to collapse during sleep and block the flow of air. As a result, the patient will wake up temporarily (often a hundred times in a single night) without completing the natural NREM-REM cycle. Patients with OSA wake up feeling unrefreshed. You can also videotape yourself when sleeping. Most often, OSA affects obese and heavily-snoring males. There are multiple support sites for OSA on the web (including recordings of snoring patients and typical signs of interrupted breathing). Sleep apnea needs to be treated with urgency. It undermines one's cognitive powers in a short-run (due to its effects on the quality of sleep) and in a long-run (due to its negative effects on brain growth and aging). If anyone tells you that you snore heavily, do not treat is as a natural thing: "my uncle also snores like a tractor and seems to be ok". All cases of snoring should be investigated. Snoring may be a first sign that your brain is not getting what it needs during the night sleep! Sleep apnea can also lead to cardiovascular disorders, depression and a whole host of negative health consequences. One of the best natural weapons against sleep apnea is weight loss by combining a healthy diet and exercise. Exercise on its own may also be helpful as long as it is chosen carefully to make sure it does not exacerbate snoring (e.g. through nasal congestion).