Getting a good night sleep is critical to our health and well-being. While we sleep our bodies go through a process of regeneration and restoration but to do this we need to get into REM sleep. REM sleep is the ultimate immune system booster and anti-aging treatment!
We fall asleep in stages and what is called REM sleep is the last stage, stage 5. In stages 1 & 2 we fall asleep but are not yet in a deep sleep. As we move into stages 3 & 4 we are in a deep sleep. Our breathing and heart rate slow down and our body is still. In the last stage, we go into REM sleep where our brain is active and we dream. In this last stage of sleep our eyes move under our eyelids. This is called rapid eye movement (REM).
Sleep apnea and its effect on REM sleep
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea your body’s natural defense mechanism will trigger a response to your lack of breathing and the lack of oxygen reaching your lungs, blood and heart. This defense mechanism is to wake you up – it’s telling you, ‘hey, you aren’t breathing, wake up!’ If you have severe sleep apnea such an event may be both dramatic and traumatic. You wake up gagging struggling to breathe with your heart pounding not knowing what is happening. This kind of event repeating itself multiple times a night can be very traumatic leading you to develop chronic insomnia as you are too afraid to fall asleep.
This natural defense mechanism prevents you from getting enough REM sleep, even with less severe forms of sleep apnea. Your body is waking you up 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 times per hour. You may not be fully woken (and thus remember waking up). Or you may wake up, roll over and go back to sleep. But you are slipping up and down through the stages of sleep without getting into proper restorative sleep.
Effects of not getting enough sleep (the "Vicious Cycle")
The effects of not getting enough restorative sleep are felt very quickly and are devastating over time:
- You wake up feeling and looking terrible, like you haven’t slept, often with a headache
- You feel tired and have no energy wanting to sleep outside normal bed-time
- You are more prone to having an accident at work or while driving
- You become more irritable and are prone to snapping back at family and work colleagues creating more stress and tension
- You are more likely to become clinically depressed (another serious condition in itself)
- You are more likely to increase your intake of food, snacking at night, eating bad "comfort" foods in the morning and during the day to try to make yourself feel better leading to weight gain and obesity.
As you gain weight any sleep disorder will likely worsen. This means without intervention, your sleep patterns will not improve and may worsen. This lack of restorative sleep makes you more irritable and more depressed, leading you to eat worse, fatty foods as you try to make yourself feel better. And the “vicious cycle” continues.
If you are not sleeping properly it is critical for you to be tested for sleep apnea. And then to work with a DME company like Classic SleepCare to ensure you get the help you need to be compliant with your PAP therapy, the recognized “gold standard” treatment for sleep apnea.