Apnea is a synonym for breathing interruption during sleep which one is usually unaware of and can last up to 10 seconds or more. Occasional breathing interruptions during sleep do not affect healthy people and are physiologically acceptable. However, more than 20 breathing interruptions one after another per hour of sleep without doubt cause damage (8). During an apnea or breathing interruption, the blood oxygen level usually starts to decrease. In case of various and successive apneas also certain mechanisms are triggered leading eventually to higher blood pressure and other illnesses. In most cases one is unaware of these mechanisms being triggered, but they serve as an alarm while ruining the sleep architecture. Apneas during sleep therefore cause:
- a state more or less similar to concealed suffocation due to the hidden decrease of the blood oxygen level
- arterial hypertension due to repetative rising of the blood adrenaline level
- sleep interruptions due to apneas causing damage in a similar way as several phone calls during the night
The most common concequence of repetetive breathing interruptions is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome caused by a closure of the air passages. Relaxed muscles or the anatomic situation in breathing air ways during sleep cause the lowering (hypopnea) or the cessation (apnea) of the air flow (this happens in unconsciousness), and as said before, the blood level of oxygen – the indespensable element enabling life (O2) – begins to gradually reduce. A human being can live without food for more than 40 days, without water around 7 days, however, without oxygen one can only live for a few minutes – five. After this period harmfull processes start evolving. People that are overweight are more likely to suffer from apneas and vice versa. Researchers say – people suffering from the OSAS are more likely to be obese, probably due to their lack of physical activity as a consequence of suffering from lack of energy and overeating.
However, waking up in order to prevent the lowering of the blood oxygen level can protect a person in terms of negative effects of breathing interruptions, but nevertheless the quality of one’s sleep gets worse which can also affect the person’s general well-being. According to research, waking up on time due to RERA (Respiratory Effort Related Arousals), eventually leads to the OSAS as a common form of apneas or breathing interruptions during sleep. (15,16)