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Getting a good night’s sleep is an important issue that affects modern society. Although everyone seems to care about the quality of their sleep, the truth is, it isn’t always prioritised over other daily activities or rituals. Undisturbed sleep is crucial for the proper functioning of our entire body, especially our brain, and sustained sleep deprivation can cause many common health complaints such as headaches, memory loss, fatigue or mood swings. It can also cause other, more serious health complications which could become chronic and intensify with age. Frequently these problems cannot be addressed with quick, short-term solutions and instead identifying their cause and taking action is imperative.
Dr. Paul G. Mathew, a medical doctor specialised in Advanced Neurology and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, recently published an interesting article on the Harvard Health Publications website, in which he explains the consequences of having trouble sleeping. He focusses on the risks derived from a very common sleep disorder, known as ‘sleep apnea’. According to Dr. Mathew, despite the common misconception, there is not an exact number of resting hours required by our body. Instead, each individual should listen to and understand the needs of their own body, adopting a healthy sleep routine which works for them. Required rest periods can vary greatly, surprisingly anywhere from 5 to 9 hours.
What is Sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is defined as pauses in breathing that cause a partial or complete blockage of the airflow into the lungs, producing, among other effects, a decrease of oxygen in the body. According to an article in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, these pauses can last from just a few seconds to minutes at a time. They can happen up to 30 times in a single hour, and frequently result in loud snoring. Dr. Mathew warns that snoring is frequently ignored as a tell-tale sign of a larger health problem. When someone snores loudly, it is actually the result of the brain’s reaction to the urgent need for oxygen.
Regarding treatment, one of the biggest issues faced is the fact that apnea patients ignore they even have the disease, or perhaps are totally unaware they even supper from it, as it happens during their sleep. They, and their significant others, get used to suffering from a “minor” problem such as snoring, without experiencing serious consequences. Although the improvement of effects such as migraines, fatigue or memory loss should be a good enough reason to seek treatment, Dr. Mathew also intensifies the potential risks of ignoring them, stating in his article the increased probability of suffering a stroke, a heart attack or brain damage.
If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, you should seek medical advice from your physician or GP.
Snored to death: The symptoms and dangers of untreated sleep apnea
What Is Sleep Apnea?