Sleep Apnea – Treating 6 Major Causes
Few things impact our daily lives more than lack of sleep. Weight gain might slow down our energy levels, sex life, and ability to perform the most trivial of tasks, but when you are fighting to stay awake and focused during the day – every day – well, that’s just downright unbearable.
We all know the importance of getting a quality eight hours of sleep. It’s a goal that all of us yearn for, but few of us rarely achieve. Honestly, how many times in the last month have you slept for eight or more hours?
If you’re over the age of 35, or have children, the answer is likely a few. Heck, for most of us six or seven hours is the goal. We still feel sub-human, but at least we can function.
Give me coffee!
When you sleep your brain recharges, your body repairs, and important hormones are released. Growth hormone is the king of these hormones. It is released in pulses by the pituitary gland.
For normal individuals, the prominent period of growth hormone release is during the initial period of stage 3 sleep. There is no growth hormone release during missed sleep. Growth hormone release is also minimized when sleep is interrupted, inconsistent, or when someone is unable to enter stage 3 sleep.
Let’s backtrack for a moment. There are five stages of sleep: 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM – or rapid eye movement. During normal sleep we progress from stage to stage, finally entering REM. The cycling through these stages are repeated.
50% of our sleep is spent in stage two, and 20% in REM. Stage one is light sleep, where we drift in and out of consciousness. With sleep apnea, you spend a lot more time here then you should.
Sleep apnea disrupts deep sleep, not only hindering your quality of sleep but also the amount of growth hormone that’s released. This impedes cell and muscle recovery, and can ultimately – over the long run – decrease longevity and quality of life.
Poor sleep, and the subsequent impact on growth hormone release, can also amplify the onset of somatopause. To quote Nick Ludlow,
“Such a rapid decline of growth hormone levels can quickly lead to clinical GH deficiency. Declining or deficient growth hormone and IGF-1 levels are accompanied with cognitive decline, increased fat mass and cardiovascular risk, as well as decreased muscle mass and aerobic capacity.
If undetected or left untreated somatopause can significantly impact your mental health, cardiovascular system, body composition, and metabolism. Somatopause may also influence mortality rates.”
The bottom line is that poor sleep not only impacts our daily quality of life, but also can contribute to a number of health issues as well as impacting longevity.
Before I move on to discuss sleep apnea in detail, let’s look at some general sleep statistics.
- During a given year 20 to 40% of adults suffer from insomnia
- 33% of adults suffer from insomnia at some point during their life
- 70 million American adults suffer from some form of sleep disorder or have trouble sleeping
- 60% of these individuals suffer from a chronic sleep disorder
A Look at Sleep Apnea
Enter sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts your breathing while sleeping. It is usually caused by either an increase in body fat, or decrease in muscle tone. Both conditions can contribute to a collapsing of the windpipe while asleep. Known as obstructive sleep apnea, this condition is typically accompanied by obnoxious snoring and/or a disruption of breathing.
During obstructive sleep apnea, an individual’s normal breathing patterns are disrupted by air creating a suction that closes the windpipe. This blockage or air flow can often last anywhere from 10 seconds to an entire minute.
As oxygen levels in the brain diminish, it responds by trying to wake the body up enough to clench the upper airway which works to restore an open airway. This awakening is often accompanied by a snort or gasp, and then more snoring.
Not only does sleep apnea disrupt normal growth hormone release, which is in itself inherently unhealthy, but it also leads to irritability, depression, decreased sex drive, headaches, decreased mental function. Sleep apnea may also contribute to high blood pressure, strange heart beats, and an increase risk of strokes and heart attacks,
- 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea
- An additional 10 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea but aren’t diagnosed
- 50% of cases are found in individuals age 40 and older
- 4 to 9% of men over 40 suffer from sleep apnea
- 2 to 4% of women over 40 suffer from sleep apnea
Treating 6 Major Sleep Apnea Causes
While these aren’t the only six causes of sleep apnea, they are causes that can be treated. Many of the causes can’t be treated (or are difficult to treat), such as genetic predisposition, large tonsils, down syndrome, and large overbite.
Cause #1 – Obesity
Extra calories not only add fat stores in and around muscle tissue, but also visceral fat. This fat accumulation can place extra stress on the lungs and windpipe. This tag team combination not only contributes to sleep apnea, but makes it harder to breathe under normal conditions.
The approach to fight sleep apnea here is obvious… Lose weight.
I can’t tell you how many bigger men I know in their 40s who have sleep apnea. It’s crazy, Time to set aside the excuses and get your life – and eating – in order. Make time to exercise, and adopt a lifestyle that focuses on clean foods rather than processed junk and empty calories.
Don’t know where to start? Here are several resources.
- The Fat Loss Factor Book by Marc Lobliner
- Pocket Guide to Improving Your Fat Loss Results
- 8 Week Accelerated Fat Loss Shred: Complete Workout & Nutrition Plan
- Flex Calorie Dieting by Steve Shaw
Cause #2 – Smoking
It’s 2016. We all know the dangers of cigarette smoke. And as if smoking’s impact on the lungs wasn’t bad enough, it can also help rob you of sleep and expedite the aging and recovery process.
What to do? Well quitting is hard. We get that.
You have several options. Quitting cold turkey is one. It’s difficult. Extremely difficult, But if you keep trying, you’ll finally climb this mountain.
You can also turn to vaping. Vaping is lung-friendly, and can only work to improve your sleep apnea. Lung capacity has been show to improve slightly after a smoker moves away from cigarettes. This might be the best way to satisfy your nicotine cravings until you can completely shake the urge to puff and relax.
Cause #3 – Recent Weight Gain
Rapid weight gain is not unusual. Pregnancy. Job stress, The birth of a new child and the resulting sleep deprivation. Depression, Binge eating. Injuries. The holiday season. The Freshman 15.
Life happens. Sometimes life happens in a big way. Many of us have struggled through periods where we lose control of our eating.
The only solution is to rope it back in. Get on the clean eating bus, remain consistent, show some discipline, and lose those 20 to 30 pounds you just packed on. It shouldn’t take long Maybe three to four months tops.
Don’t wait. Hit your cupboards and toss out the junk now.
Cause #4 – Supine Sleeping (Flat on Back)
I know this cause well. Back in the day I weighed 346 pounds. You can read my complete transformation story here.
When I would sleep on my back, all heck would break loose. I would actually start to snore before I was asleep. Repeat, I could hear myself snore before I was asleep. I was actually waking myself up, and shaking the room, long before I hit stage one of sleep.
The only solution is to find a way to sleep on your side. If it’s uncomfortable, find a way to make it comfortable. Use extra pillows for support. Do what it takes. A little discomfort as you doze off is much better than a restless night of little sleep.
Also, never lay flat on your back if you are about to drift off. If you are beat, roll over on your side. Don’t risk accidental supine sleeping.
It’s also a good idea to have your partner nudge you if you are sleeping on your back. There’s a good change you will turn to your side, or even change positions.
Cause #5 – Menopause
Menopause can disrupt normal hormone regulation, body temperature, and eating habits. The impact of menopause varies, but for some women it can disrupt sleep and even contribute to sleep apnea.
One of the best ways to keep your hormones in a more normal and natural state is through exercise and diet. Clean eating and resistance training might just be the cure for what ails you.
Not only will this combination work to keep your hormones regular, but exercise and diet will work to combat weight gain, improve metabolism, and stave off an army of other health issues that can come with age.
#6 – Alcohol Use
Heck, some of us snore just from a night of heavy drinking. Add it a consistent use of alcohol, less than healthy food choices, some weight gain, and you have a sleep apnea disaster waiting to happen.
The occasional drink isn’t a bad thing. In fact, there are many studies that show that the occasional drink might actually be good for our health. Now, once you start to partake of several drinks per evening – and you are struggling with mild or major sleep apnea, it may be time to curb your intake.
If you are battling sleep apnea, the best thing you can do is think about living a new lifestyle. Cut your drinking back to several per week, clean up your diet, get moving, and try to find better way to unwind and relax other than large quantities of alcohol.