To fully understand sleep-related breathing disorders, their causes and their consequences, it is helpful to place them in proper context – sleep. Understanding the different stages of sleep gives us more awareness on how disorders can invade during this time.
Analyzing human sleep stages shows how sleep and sleep-related breathing disorders may be related:
Introduction to Sleep
Your eyes fight to stay open. Your muscles begin to relax. The physical world starts disappearing around you.
Beginning of Sleep
Light, dreamless sleep. A relaxation takes over the body to prepare for the dreams that are coming.
Slow Wave Sleep
Deep sleep. Building up physical and mental energy. This is where the body gets rest.
Rapid Eye Movement
Rapid eye movement. Dreaming. Improves brain function and creates long term memories.
Healthy Sleep VS Sleep Fragmentation
Those people who experience healthy sleep will cycle through the various sleep stages throughout the night. The average person will have four or five “cycles” of sleep with a vast amount of this time spent in slow wave and REM sleep. This very critical time allows the body to work to perform activities that don’t happen efficiently or not at all during other times. Medical science is only beginning to understand the importance of sleep.
People with sleep-related breathing disorders suffer from sleep fragmentation. As their bodies attempt to go deeper into sleep, the upper airway collapse interferes with breathing, forcing the body to revert to lighter sleep stages to get air. This sleep fragmentation interferes with the replenishment of the immune system, the production of growth hormone and the regulation of glucose metabolism, among other things.
Not only is it important to get adequate hours of sleep, those hours must be “efficient” sleep for optimal health. Many people who sleep very poorly sleep for long periods of time in a futile attempt to access deeper sleep stages. Many people with sleep-related breathing disorders rarely dream since they spend little time in REM sleep.