Sleep Apnea is a complex and often misunderstood topic, that’s why the scientific community is still committed on running studies in an attempt to understand something more about the causes of this condition.
In this article I’m presenting to you sleep apnea as a consequence of a deeper disconnection between related regulatory boards of our being; the physiological, the emotional and postural.
In my practice I explore any kind of body problematic in an holistic approach and so even in this context I like to have a look at Sleep Apnea with the same lens. What about if sleep apnea is a way that our body use to communicate a deeper lack of communication and coherence between different areas of our life?
Apnea is a Greek word meaning "lack of breathe" and effectively that is what happens with sleep apnea. The clinical, dry definition of sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing greater than 10 seconds.
Sleep apnea is cause of daytime sleepiness and lack of energy but also many other compensatory symptoms like snoring, poor memory, dry mouth, headaches, behaviour changes including ADHD and also rapid gain weight.
There are two forms of sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea because your breathing stops as your tissues in the throat collapse and block the airflow. It usually happens when a person is trying to inhale, during sleep. Usually people that suffers from this condition wake up suddenly with the compulsion to breathe as a result of higher level of CO2.
It might happen for many reasons:
- Excessive relaxation of the muscles around your airways which obstruct sufficient air to get through
- Structural reasons like the shape of your nose, neck and jaw
- Also obesity could indirectly causes sleep apnea, as too much weight around your neck narrows your airway
Different story is that one about Central Sleep Apnea. People that suffers from this condition experience different pauses in their breathe while their sleep for a lack of communication between brain and body, basically your brain doesn’t talk efficiently to your respiratory muscles. Here the airways are completely open but you are not making any effort to breathe. It’s a manifestation of major disruption of the stability of your breathing patterns.
What about if I’m telling you that Over-breathing aka hyperventilation and so reduced levels of CO2 can promote apnea during sleep? Well it seems quite controversy but this is what a lot of studies recently have hypothesised.
A dysfunctional daytime breathing pattern will carry over into night-time presenting a range of possible symptoms including snoring, sleep apnoea, insomnia, restless legs, night-time trips to the bathroom, bruxism (teeth grinding), and night-time thirst.
It unbelievable to see how a banal, automatic thing like breathing can create in a background such a loop of many nasty heath conditions
Some interesting studies out there have recently raised the possibilities of how behavioural hyperventilation could trigger apnea episodes during the night. In particular, an interesting study from Thomas P. Johnston, Jade Tam-Williams et.al “Behavioral Hyperventilation and Central Sleep Apnea in Two Children” shows how two young adults had respiratory alkalosis, aka excessive level of Oxygen in the blood stream, and interestingly central apnea during sleep with apnea as long as 51 and 79 seconds.
Even if we would need to collect more and more datas it seems like this pattern is consistent with other cases of hyperventilation-associated with Central Sleep Apnea. In fact, the phenomenon of Hyperventilation or Over-breathing has been observed by many researchers. Hypocapnia i.e. low levels of carbon dioxide caused by hyperventilation presents the condition of alkalosis. In this, reduced hydrogen ions [H+] acting on the chemoreceptors in the brain stem area lead to the suppression of breathing.
The concept behind is that CO2 usually increases oxygen uptake by its influence on the regulation of pulmonary ventilation, it also facilitates oxygen delivery to the tissues by changing the affinity of oxygen to hemoglobin, and increases the delivery of Oxygen to our brain cells.
Wow, exactly, if someone told you that CO2 is a waste product was wrong, it’s actually a fundamental product of our organism. However according to many clinical assessments, all individuals who present with snoring and sleep apnoea show signs of day-time dysfunctional breathing and they are in fact over-breathers.
This is why it’s becoming real the hypothesis that people suffering from dysfunctional breathing may improve brain oxygenation under hypoxic conditions as a result of different breathe holding techniques. This may be especially important in patients with sleep apnea syndrome.
Weird hey? Improve sleep apnea by voluntary creating a slightly sensation of lack of air.
After years and years of practice with peoples I see breathing functionality as the ability of our breathe to interact with our real physical and psychological state in a given moment. Here, now heart rate, blood pressure, lymphatic system, brain waves, cellular metabolism are cooperating together to respond efficiently to the real demands of the environment that surround us.
You might hyperventilate aka over-breathe chronically (for days on end and longer), compulsively swallowing air when you are nervous and feel like you will never get enough air through the nose, so you need to use your mouth. “Flew…oh that’s feel right”. Well, it’s actually not.
This is how people can create a pattern, a vicious cycle that develop daily bad breathing habits that will carry on even during the night. Here I see Sleep Apnea as a manifestation of major physiological and psychological disruption where in fact our way to breathe is the first manifestation of it.
We can feel that sometimes our “Respiro” is short and fast, well it’s an incoherent way to breathe as it creates a situation where our breathe, our heart rate and our brain waves are following each other without synchronicity.From psycho-physiology perspective is a representation of a discrepancy between the real demands of the environment and our ability to cope with them. It means disconnection.
But here is the thing if your partner telling you that you snore loudly or appear to have breathing interruptions when you sleep. If you consistently feel tired throughout the day, even when you have slept a sufficient amount of time, this can be another symptom associated with sleep apnea.
I firmly advise in this cases to implement different breathe holding techniques as part of your morning and before to bed routines in order to reduce your snoring and improve your sleep. As the breathing pattern normalises, restful snore- and apnea-free sleep can return.
Want to know more about my effective breathing practices to manage sleep apnea? Check this out.