…being able to “breathe deeply” might actually help!

We have talked a lot about snoring, sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), and what symptoms this may be causing you; headaches, ear infections, cognitive problems, daytime sleepiness, swollen adenoids, and tonsils, etc. There is also continuing research underway to examine how the lack of sleep caused by nighttime breathing disorders may promote or contribute to serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, etc. Although not yet fully confirmed, there is now an assumption that your breathing at night may be at the very core of many medical problems.

And if this assumption doesn’t hold much weight for you, know this: it IS a proven fact that breathing disorders are common in many patients with mental problems like mood and anxiety disorders.

Due to new and improved ways to conduct sleep studies, we are discovering links between a person’s breathing and their medical, neurological, and psychiatric well-being.

Dr. Jackie Schafer of Colorado Healthy Sleep explains further, “When a person has a sleep-related breathing disorder that obstructs air inhalation, the narrowing of the airway makes it resistant to the proper air intake. The effort to breathe and remain asleep increases. In moderate to severe cases, the airway collapses, and being able to breathe becomes a conscious endeavor. When this occurs, you will often hear cascading snores with a long period of silence followed by a magnified intake of breath, snorting, coughing, or gasping. The patient will awake but then falls back to sleep quickly. That cycle repeats over and over throughout the night…sometimes hundreds of times each night…disrupting the much-needed, restful REM sleep cycle. Come morning, the patient is exhausted. They may experience a headache. They are groggy throughout the day and may complain of mental fog. All because they can’t breathe correctly while sleeping! We now also believe that this cycle can be contributing to the uptick of mental illnesses we are seeing in adults, teens, and children.”

Psychiatric treatments of mental disorders have evolved over the years. Certain conditions, particularly depression and anxiety, previously called for treatment utilizing medications. It is now recognized that these medications can adversely affect sleep and routine breathing patterns. Considering again the information above – that it has been PROVEN that many with psychiatric illnesses HAVE breathing disorders — it seems like a very vicious cycle, one that supports the correlation between breathing and mental health.

Additionally, studies done on PTSD patients by the US Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed there is a high prevalence of mental conditions when a patient exhibits nighttime breathing disorders. These PTSD sufferers often reported night terrors, sleepwalking, fatigue, etc.…the same symptoms that were exhibited and reported by SDB sufferers.

Anxiety disorders can also be associated with patients experiencing an inability to obtain a restful night’s sleep by staying asleep. It is known that lack of sleep, whether associated with SDB, sleep apnea, or any other cause, impairs a person’s coping mechanisms. So it makes sense that anything that is disrupting a good night’s sleep could be causing an inability to handle stressful situations and manifesting as mild to debilitating anxiety.

Likewise, sleepiness and fatigue can be easily explained because of a sleep disorder.  This lack of sleep can directly contribute to personal and social problems – missing work, forgetting important times and dates, etc. The stress brought on by these challenges can contribute, or even lead to, depression.

SDB symptoms are found to overlap with mood, anxiety, and other psychiatric illnesses. It has been noted in clinical cases that SDB symptoms have evened been found to masquerade as a mental disorder.

It may also be valuable to note:

SDB should be considered in women close to or actively in menopause who experience insomnia, fatigue, and problems with mental clarity.

Children who snore and exhibit attention-deficit problems – those traditionally diagnosed as ADD and ADHD – should undergo a sleep test and be examined by a qualified sleep professional for nighttime breathing issues.

Those exhibiting aggressive behaviors may find the root cause is SDB. Once the airway obstruction is resolved, the behavior has been known to subside.

Dr. Schafer provides a final note on this subject, “We now have take-home sleep tests that are easy and accurate. You don’t have to go to a clinic and try to fall asleep with machines buzzing and people watching you. And there’s no reason for anyone to fear finding out if you have an obstructive airway; the tests are easy, fast, and non-invasive. A simple scan I do in my office can tell me if you may have a breathing problem that we can easily fix with a retainer-like device you wear in your mouth at night.”

If you’d like to know more about SDB or talk to someone about symptoms that you are experiencing that may be due to sleep/breathing problems, you can contact Colorado Healthy Sleep in Lafayette, Colorado at 303-469-3344 or visit our website at www.ColoradoHealthySleep.com