Elevation and Sleep Apnea

sleeping problems

Sleep apnea is a common problem among Americans. Close to 10% of women and 25% of men suffer from the condition. As bad as it is, elevation further complicates the condition, making Sleep apnea a lot more dangerous.

The Body at Constant Catabolism

Your body shifts from anabolic and catabolic phases throughout the day. The catabolic phase occurs during the day or when you’re awake. During this time, your body stops synthesizing proteins. Your body will produce cortisol, glucagon, and other hormones and chemicals that will lead to a loss of nitrogen in your system and the breakdown of cells in your body (shedding skin, growing nails, etc.).

Your body only shifts to the anabolic phase during sleep. This phase is when your body heals by synthesizing proteins from nutrients and releasing growth hormones, healing injuries, and recovering from fatigue. Sleep apnea prevents this shift to the anabolic phase as the constant gasps for air keeps your body from fully resting. At continued catabolism throughout the night, your body has no chance to heal, leaving you feeling fatigued upon waking. Aside from feeling tired, sleep apnea has been known to cause dry mouth, sore throat, depression, as well as increased risk of heart failure (140%), stroke (60%), and coronary heart disease (30%).

Elevation and Thinner Air

Air gets thinner with higher altitude. Usually, your body adjusts by breathing faster, but you lose conscious control of your breathing when you sleep. Thinner air means your body needs to take in more oxygen, making sleep apnea more serious — and dangerous — at high elevation. Individuals with no prior diagnosis of sleep apnea can also experience it in high altitudes. Denver and Salt Lake City, two cities with high altitude, have high instances of sleep apnea even though both these cities have two of the lowest obesity rates in the nation.

Treating Sleep Apnea

sleep apnea cpap machine

Milder forms of sleep apnea can be dealt with by just sleeping on one’s side with a good mattress. However, more severe cases require the use of continuous positive air pressure or CPAP device while sleeping. CPAP tools direct air into your airways, and the constant pressure (albeit mild) prevents excess tissue from blocking your breathing. Nasal surgery is another option, and one of the most straightforward procedures. Other procedures can involve repositioning or removing parts of the tongue, removing the excess tissue from the throat, and repositioning the jaw.

Weight Matters

Most forms of sleep apnea are tied to weight gain. Being overweight or obese increases your chance of developing sleep apnea as excess tissue can form at the back of the throat and form blockages during sleep. Losing weight can reverse the process, making your symptoms milder or even eliminating them. A mere 10 percent reduction in your weight will have significant positive effects on the quality of your sleep, and getting back to normal weight will probably eliminate all symptoms of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition, especially in high places. Get checked, get the necessary treatments, and get a bit healthier by losing a bit of weight.

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