I’ve written a lot about sleep apnea. It’s one of the most common sleep disorders, and one of the most dangerous. Just a quick recap: sleep apnea is a potentially fatal condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times throughout the night. These periods of oxygen deprivation can raise a person’s risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and obesity. The precipitous and repeated drops in blood oxygen are what damage the body’s delicate tissues. Sleep apnea also results in a diminished quality of sleep. Poor sleep is related to a whole host of conditions, from anxiety and depression, to poor intellectual performance, to collapsing relationships. One of the things that’s so upsetting about sleep apnea is that it can be successfully treated, eliminating all of these frightening side effects. And yet, few sufferers even know they are suffering. If you live alone or your partner is a heavy sleeper, you may have sleep apnea and be entirely unaware. Even more frightening: new research shows that women are at particularly high risk.
Just imagine how tiring it would be to stop breathing every minute or two, if you just held your breath constantly throughout the day. That would be a stressful day! Now imagine it’s happening while you’re trying to sleep—while your body is supposed to be repairing itself—and you’ll understand the gravity of this common disorder.
Oxygen deprivation doesn’t just affect the heart and circulatory system, it also affects the brain. A number of studies have been done on sleep apnea and brain health, for whatever reason most of them have focused on men. This might be because sleep apnea is more common in men, but it’s been an acknowledged gap in our knowledge. The recent study focusing on women sleep apnea sufferers revealed that, “[in] fact, women are more affected by sleep apnea than are men and that women with obstructive sleep apnea have more severe brain damage than men suffering from a similar condition.”
The frustrating thing about this study is that causation is still unclear. Researchers don’t know if the detected brain damage is a result of the sleep apnea, or if it in fact caused the condition in the first place. Clearly, further investigation is needed. In the meantime though, the array of sleep apnea initiated damage to the body should be enough for sufferers to seek treatment. There are many things you can do at home to improve your sleep apnea including: getting a more supportive mattress, losing weight, abstaining from alcohol, and sleeping on your side. Still, here at Plushbeds we encourage anyone suffering from this serious condition to consult a doctor.