I see a lot of diagnostic sleep tests come across my desk and it’s not uncommon to see Mr. John Doe have an AHI (apnea hypopnea index) on average of 30. What does that mean, AHI = 30? Many people get that number confused with the amount of times during the night that they quit breathing but, and this is a BIG but, it’s actually the number of times PER HOUR that they quit breathing. Just let that sink in for a second…. and if you do the math, that’s once every 2 minutes during the course of your 8 hour sleep cycle that you do the following:
Every 2 minutes. Or maybe worse, I have seen apnea hypopnea indexes as high as 120 times per hour. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. A healthy night’s sleep is achievable, and even better, it’s affordable. You spend 1/3 of your life sleeping and it’s that 1/3 of your life that greatly affects the other 2/3.
During REM sleep (rapid eye movement) our neural connections convert short term memory into long term memory. People that suffer from sleep apnea (sleep disordered breathing) typically have significantly reduced REM sleep as a result of fragmented sleep. Each episode (apnea event) results in a drop in your oxygen level as well as disruption to your brain wave activity. That brings you from a deeper stage of sleep to a lighter, lest restful stage of sleep. The use of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) reduces the fragmented sleep and has been shown to increase and restore the amount of REM sleep.
When we rest, our heart rate slows down. The average heart rate while we are awake is 60-100 beats per minute and when we sleep, the average drops down to 40-900 BPM. During normal healthy sleep the heart rate sustains a somewhat steady and level rate and rhythm. A person with obstructive sleep apnea typically will have a chaotic heart rate or arrhythmias during apnea events. When you have an apnea event your heart rate slows down as the blood oxygen levels drops; when air is restored to the lungs after the apnea event has ended, the heart races to catch up and pump more blood throughout the body
Depression v/s Better Mood
Lack of a good night’s sleep is enough to make us all a little irritable but just image what is must feel like to not get a good night’s sleep for 20 or 30 years. That is exactly what has happened to a lot of people that have suffered a long time with undiagnosed sleep apnea. They fail to understand how it could be happening and tell themselves “Hey, I got 8 hours of sleep last night, why do I feel this way?” or “How can I get a good night’s sleep; is something wrong with me?”. It’s amazing to see the effect on some people in the sleep clinic the morning after their first full night with CPAP. It makes a world of difference; not only does CPAP save lives, CPAP saves marriages too!
It’s not hard to understand that with little sleep or the feeling of fogginess one might have a difficult time being creative or even having the energy to do one’s job. Let’s not even mention the morning headaches or lethargy that also comes with fragmented sleep and untreated sleep apnea.
It’s quite simple really; without healthy sleep it is hard to get the motivation to exercise or be more active. It’s that motivation and drive the get us to the gym or keeps our activity levels up where we start to burn more calories and lose weight. Decreases in the hormone Leptin from lack of healthy sleep contributes to increased appetite.
Improved mood, a more rested heart, lower blood pressure and decreased risk of stroke and heart attack are really good bullet points to live by when you make the effort for better sleep.
Home Sleep Testing
If you or someone you know suffers from the symptoms listed in this article, you should consider consulting with a physician about conducting a home sleep apnea test. 1800CPAP.com offers a home sleep apnea test kit for the low price of $349.00, including interpretation by a board certified sleep physician.