Ignorance is bliss.
What you don’t know won’t hurt you.
“Leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping.”
Surely, you’ve heard these idioms and heard the melodic lyrics from Lennon and McCartney. But just beware: When you are “drifting upstream” in bed you aren’t just sleeping. Just as when you’re awake, a lot is going on inside your body and mind— and most of it essential to a healthy existence.
One of the most obvious functions that occurs while you sleep is breathing. Interruptions, fluctuations, and other variances in your breathing during slumber can ultimately account for everything from obesity, to depression, to impotency, and even memory deficiency.
When your oxygen flow (i.e., breathing) reaches below-average levels during sleep, oxygen desaturation occurs. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), 22 million Americans suffer from oxygen desaturation, mostly from the malady popularly known as sleep apnea.
The ASAA adds that 8 of every 10 who suffer from moderate to severe levels of oxygen deficiency while sleeping are not immediately aware of their disorder. Sometimes, it is only diagnosed after the mystified sufferer complains to a doctor about problems during his or her waken hours—not only those aforementioned symptoms but also high blood pressure, drowsiness, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems that can lead to heart failure or stroke.
The Most Vulnerable
According to VeryWellHealth.com, a health information website, obstruction of oxygen flow during sleep—apnea—can afflict a person of any age, gender, or weight. However, studies find this malady occurring more commonly among the following:
—Those between 40 and 60 years of age
—Males with a neck circumference of 17 inches or greater; women with a neck girth of 16 inches or greater
—Those with enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids
—Drinkers and drug users (i.e., sedatives and tranquilizer use)
Technically, oxygen desaturation occurs when oxygen levels repeatedly drop during sleep. They can recover during the same sleep, but cumulatively, these dips in oxygen flow can result in maladies affecting your daytime activities.
The obstruction of air usually occurs in the upper airway. Hypopnea, another sleep disorder, involves a partial collapse of the airway. People can suffer air obstruction simply from their physical features, as noted in neck circumference. The facial structure as it relates to sinus passages can also affect oxygen flow while sleeping.
Though those with the aforementioned conditions or habits are predisposed to oxygen desaturation during sleeping hours, those with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases or other lung disorders and congestive problems—particularly those leading to heart failure—stand at greater risk of insufficient oxygen flow while sleeping. According to VeryWellHealth.com, these conditions may also be associated with unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide, associated with a malady known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.
Technology Exists to Measure Oxygen Desaturation
Fortunately, your oxygen desaturation index (ODI) can be measured with particular medical devices and even while you are sleeping.
Clinicians and doctors use an oximeter to determine your oxygen deficiency. This device consists of a clamp placed on your fingertip that calculates the amount of oxygen in one’s blood at any given time.
Thanks to advanced technology you can take home with you, such as the Biostrap, you can monitor your oxygen flow during your sleep by using our in-platform SpO2 reporting. The Biostrap and similar smart devices emit wavelengths that measure absorption of blood through your pulsing arteries (pulse oximetry). Biostrap, for instance, conveys current data on whether you are receiving a healthy oxygen flow while sleeping.
Though you can use smart devices to get accurate oxygen readings, it is important to visit a sleep doctor or general physician in the case of experiencing some of the characteristic conditions associated with sleep apnea or oxygen desaturation: obesity, depression, frequent drowsiness, high blood pressure, or repeated memory lapses.
If a doctor determines your apnea or oxygen deprivation during sleep to be a severe case, he or she may prescribe continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This treatment consists of a CPAP machine with mask that is worn while sleeping. The machine filters the air and provides the necessary pressure to maintain a healthy oxygen flow during sleep.
For certain situations and conditions, a doctor might prescribe a BiPAP machine, very similar to the CPAP.
Get Back in the Flow
Final word? Don’t take your sleep for granted. Pay attention to any abnormalities in your body’s or mind’s behavior during the waken hours. If you live and sleep with a partner, defer to their observations regarding your sleep to determine whether you should see a medical expert.
Only when you gain substantive data, from an oximeter or smart device, will you be able to say “leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping” with nary a worry.
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