Sleeping Bad – Why It Matters

If you wake up tired or with a headache, or have a foggy brain, you very likely have OSA. One of the most common causes of poor sleep is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If you are one of the 35% of Americans with poor sleep that you might be suffering from the airways collapsing due to OSA during sleep. OSA prevents proper exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide from your lungs and thus cells. This can irreversibly damage the right side of your heart, cause heart attacks, cause obesity, damage the brain, and even kill you. People normally associate OSA with obesity and for good reason, because the fat around the neck contributes to the collapsing of the airways. It is a hard type of fat to lose. OSA also stimulates the hunger hormone grehlin which increases appetite. This ultimately creates a vicious cycle of weight gain and metabolic dysfunction and overeating. But that’s just scratching the surface. Lots of normal weight people also have OSA. This could be due to reduced muscle tone in the neck closing the airway.

The best way to figure out if you have OSA is to know if you snore at night or if someone observes you struggling to breath while you are sleeping.  The next best way to record yourself while you sleep. Sleep centers will monitor your oxygen saturation while you sleep. There are some creative options out there, you just need to do some research.

If you have OSA what are your options and what can you do? Standard medical therapy (at the moment) is continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP. This is a machine that blows air into your airway with a form fitting mask. In many studies treatment with the CPAP machine can help you sleep and oxygenate your bran better. Many studies show that treating OSA with CPAP results in a better quality of life and improved moods, better prefrontal total cortex function and even decreased depression. CPAP is uncomfortable, noisy and makes it very hard to go to sleep until you get used to it. But at the end of the day your sleep improves and everything else will improve.

Practicing good sleep hygiene can help. Preparing for sleep generally starts 2 hours before you go to bed. Unplug your electronics in the bedroom and don’t sleep with them next to you. Always put your phone on airplane mode. No binge-watching Netflix on your TV just before going to bed. Getting good sleep actually starts two hours before you go to sleep. There are a lot of things you can do to improve sleep hygiene. Keep your bed cool and dark plenty of fresh air. Consider taking a shower before bed. Urinate before bed. Limit screen time at least one hour before bed (if at all). If you read a book, make sure you have a Kindle reader or a regular book. Be very careful not to check emails late at night. You need to have the normal stimulus is that raises natural melatonin. Drinking caffeine 6 to 12 hours before bed can affect sleep as well. Take a genetic test and find out if you are a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine. If you are a “slow metabolizer” of caffeine, that afternoon cup of coffee may be affecting your ability to get to sleep. Using a sauna at night can help sleep and recovery.

To your health

Doc Edwards