Would you believe that some people “forget to breathe?” Yes, you’ve read it right. Some people do forget to breathe, especially while they sleep.
This phenomenon is considered a disorder and is clinically called sleep apnea. People who have this disorder have pauses in breathing while they sleep. Sufferers miss one or more breathes per pause. The standard definition of such a “miss” is at least a 10-second interval between breathes. Now, imagine having to hold your breath for 10 seconds – that already as long as a set of exercise.
The more interesting part about this sleeping disorder is that sufferers are not even aware that they “forget” to breathe while they sleep. Such an episode is recognized by others (a spouse or a family member who sleeps in the same room with the sufferer) or is manifested by sleepiness during the day or fatigue due to sleep disturbance.
Sleep apnea is treated using a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for “continuous positive airflow pressure.” When you sleep, the muscles in the upper part of your airway relax. As a result the airway becomes narrow. This causes a certain kind of sleep apnea called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
What the CPAP machine does is to prevent the muscles from relaxing so the airway becomes clear. This is done by supplying constant air pressure. Most sleep apnea patients require air pressures between 6 and 14 cm H2O.
It is important to note, however, that it is the air pressure that keeps the airway from relaxing, and not the flow of air itself. Thus, the CPAP machine is all about pressure, and not airflow.
With all this talk about the CPAP machine, you wonder: what does it look like? Well, it contains a flow generator (the heart of the machine providing the airflow), a hose and an interface (a mask). CPAP masks – in Toronto or elsewhere – could be nasal (to cover the nose only) or full -face (to cover the whole face).
The CPAP machine also has optional features. These CPAP accessories – in Toronto or elsewhere – include a humidifier and flexible chin straps, among others. The humidifier – as the name suggests – provides adds moisture to air.
Flexible chin straps are designed to help patients breathe through the nose (and not through the mouth). A patient should not breathe through the mouth in order to keep a “closed pressure system.” Remember, the CPAP machine is all about air pressure. If the patient opens his /her mouth, the pressure is disturbed and this treatment could become useless. CPAP
Sleep apnea, when left untreated or unattended, beco mes disturbing. If you have one, your work productivity will surely suffer because of lack of sleep. Not only is this disorder stressful for you, but this is also disturbing for your loved ones as well. They will be worried as to why you are not getting enough sleep – as a result, they cannot sleep soundly too.
So before things gets worse, be sure to immediately consult your doctor if you noticed that the person whom you share a bed with has difficulty breathing. It could just be stress – not really sleep apnea – but at least, you know for sure what all that loud snoring and sleep disturbance is all about. Then, you both can have a good night’s sleep.