Not many of us realize it or even want to think about it, but while we are sleeping, our bodily functions are wide awake processing our dormant hours for all they are worth.
Though it may bring a yawn or two to begin thinking or learning about the inner body’s important functions that occur during sleep, knowing about them can lead to a healthier lifestyle for anyone who is falling short of oxygen saturation or normal breathing during sleep.
Most people are familiar with the term, sleep apnea, or know someone—perhaps in their own family—that suffers from this inability to sufficiently saturate their system with oxygen during sleep. The oxygen saturation in your blood (Spo2) can affect how well you sleep.
How SpO2 Works
Oxygen saturation during the day differs greatly from your SpO2 during sleep. Exercising, posture at work, emotions, and even simple conversation all involve and require a steady flow of oxygen. Breathing occurs throughout all these actions, and though people don’t think about their breathing, except perhaps during exercise routines, we know we are breathing.
When sleeping, we are unaware of how we are breathing unless we are woken up by a breathing problem, this is the case when afflicted by sleep apnea.
During normal SpO2, the tempo of your breathing slows slightly when first falling asleep, but it remains quite steady. Consequently, your body temperature dips ever so slightly as well. As you enter deep sleep and attain REM (rapid eye movement from mental processes such as dreaming), your heartbeat even slows a little. Meanwhile, the body is busy restoring vital agents and functions in our bodies while you’re checked out, producing growth hormones that restore and repair damaged tissues, such as those in our muscles. Sleep affects almost every tissue in our body, says Michael Twery, a sleep researcher for the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Twery explains in an NIH News in Health article that a good night’s sleep consists of 4-5 sleep cycles, each including deep sleep or REM—the dreaming state. “It turns out that this pattern of cycling and progression is critical to the biology of sleep,” says Twery.
According to Dr. Brandon R. Peters, who practices at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, Washington, extra oxygen flows to your muscles when entering the REM phase of sleep. In a BeddrSleep.com article, he says this is the most important phase of sleeping.
As most people know, the recommended amount of sleep for the average adult remains 7 to 8 hours per night. Babies rule the sleep world, however. They require and get about 16 hours a day. Toddlers should get about 10 hours a night and teens about 9 hours. Twery insists that reaching these levels, based on age, allows the body to gain optimal benefits from sleep.
What Tips the Scale in Our SpO2?
According to the NIH and other sleep researchers, nearly 100 million people in the U.S. suffer some sleep deprivation (i.e., their amounts of sleep fall below the aforementioned recommendations). Up to 45 million in the US and one billion worldwide suffer from sleep apnea.
So, what are the reasons for these lost hours of sleep?
Simply put, the interruption of our breathing while sleeping leads to lost hours of slumber and body restoration. Stress can play the culprit as can the physical structure of your respiratory channels. A host of diseases or disorders can put a dent in our SpO2, including emphysema, asthma, anemia, and chronic pulmonary diseases.
The Light at the End of the Sleep Tunnel
Both Twery and Peters bring good news to those with low SpO2 during sleep. They point to very basic measures you can employ to correct your oxygen saturation while in la-la land.
One potential remedy consists of adopting a breathing routine. Try a series of deep breathing before going to bed. It not only relaxes, experts say, but it precipitates a rise in your blood’s oxygen levels. It works best when you are breathing in fresh air, free of too many contaminants and pollutants.
Sleeping on your side might also resolve your SpO2 problem. According to Peters, the weight of your body while sleeping on your back can compress breathing channels, including the lungs. He says it is a simple result of gravity. Side sleeping also reduces the snoring factor, a side-benefit.
Finding ways to reduce stress at work, school, or with family matters can also bolster your oxygen saturation at night.
As with most health issues, exercise ranks extremely high in curing oxygen insufficiencies during sleep. Integrate an exercise routine into your weekly schedule, but don’t exercise just before going to bed, which can deter your body from reaching a healthy or deep sleep mode. Equally, drinking alcohol just before bed can deter a healthy sleep.
Monitor Your Sleep Pattern While Sleeping
You can actually employ an extra set of eyes—ones that are open, essentially—while your own eyes are shut. Smart biometric gadgets, such as the Biostrap, a device which measures blood and its oxygen flow, can be attached to your wrist just before hitting the sack.
By employing such readily available technology, you can determine whether you might need to see a professional sleep expert regarding your SpO2. If none of the aforementioned routines or remedies work, a medical expert might recommend the use of machines that supplement your oxygen levels while sleeping.
By unveiling the mystery of your oxygen patterns during sleep, you can uncover the path to the perfect amount and type of sleep to better enjoy and enhance your lifestyle.