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Breaking down Sleep & Sleep Apnea

Breaking down Sleep & Sleep Apnea

  • November 24, 2018
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The fundamental rhythm of breathing that drives our respiratory muscles is generated by brain cells in the brain stem, right above the spinal cord. In addition to generating the rhythm of breathing, the cells in this part of the brain do things like regulate our blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose. The brain stem keeps us alive.

We don’t forget to breathe because the breathing as a vital function, does not depend upon the mind. What happens when we sleep is that our breathing switches from conscious control (used for movements, voice etc while we are awake) to sleep mode which is deep, slow and fully automatic.


Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes during hundreds of times. This means the brain and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen .

Our throat is a collapsible tube, like a garden hose. When we are awake, the muscles of our throat contract to stiffen our air ways and keep it from collapsing when we suck in air. However, when we are asleep this process does not work as well. Our air occasionally collapse when we try to take a breath, meaning we are not getting in any oxygen.

Sleep apnea can affect up to 7% of adult males and anyone at any age even children.

What are the risk factors for sleep apnea?

If left untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of health problems including high blood pressure , stroke, heart failure, irregular heart beats and heart attacks , diabetes, depression , worsening of ADHD, headaches. In addition untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities such as, at work and school, motor vehicles crashes and academic underachievement in children and adolescents.

What symptoms do people exhibit if they have sleep apnea?

What to do if sleep apnea is suspected?

It is advisable to get a sleep study , to count number of times one stops breathing in the sleep .if it is more than 5 times an hour it is abnormal . there are multiple treatment options depending on severity and cause of sleep apnea.

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Remember that sleep apnea can be treated and consequences can be prevented.

About the Author

Dr. Sandhya Kulkarni
SRV Mamata Hospital

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