Sleep Apnoea: Pause for Thought:

Most people don’t think that snoring should be something you need medical attention for. That may not be true. While some cases of snoring can be overcome with small lifestyle changes, most people are not aware of any snoring problems until they have spiraled out of control and are leading to apnoeas which may be severely affecting their health.

Snoring Affects Health:

Once upon a time, snoring was just a fact of life for some unfortunate people.  It was never viewed as a health problem – other than the effects on their marital relationship, snoring presented no “health issues”. Nowadays, we view snoring as a sign of something more serious.

Snoring has been strongly linked to increase risk of stroke and heart issues.  This is because if it becomes severe, it can lead to Sleep Apnoea, which pushes the health risks up severely. Thus, snoring has become a “sign” that all is not well with your health.

Sleep Apnoea: What is it?

Sleep Apnoea is a chronic condition that stops the sufferer from breathing properly while they sleep. It can be Obstructive – as in the airway becomes physically obstructed by relaxed muscles and tissue – or it can be Central – when the brain does not receive sufficient stimulus to stimulate the lungs to breathe.

Medicine has few options for treatment in the apnoea arena – other than medical devices, which are costly and difficult to get used to – and present a host of other issues – like skin eruptions of the face where the mask sits and discomfort during sleep. Sleep Apnoea presents a difficult set of circumstances for any doctor to deal with in the usual fifteen minute consult time allotted for patients. But that is not the case with interventions like the Buteyko Method adjunct programs  – which studies and articles show, can help immensely with managing and correcting Sleep Apnoea.

Buteyko helps to address what we understand to be the root cause behind Sleep Apnoea – stressed breathing that has become unbalanced and is no longer in tune with your metabolic activity.

How Does Breathing become “Unbalanced”?

Breathing is one of the primary mechanisms of life – and we use it to adapt and react to  our environment. When we consistently exposed to stress, our breathing must consistently change to cope with this factor. To do so, it requires the respiratory centre of the brain to make quick and rapid adaptations. If we are constantly needing to make adaptations for stress, the adaptation mechanism or respiratory centre controls may become a little faulty and it becomes difficult to tune our breathing automatically.

Because this area of the brain has very high neuroplasticity, it becomes possible for “stressed” breathing patterns to become set as the “New Normal”. This creates feelings of anxiety – even though they are not encountering stressors at the time. It also means that this is the “normal setting”.  How we breathe in the day is also how we will breathe at night.

Once these respiratory controls have been reset, it takes some effort to get breathing to adapt and respond normally once more. Chronic Sleep Apnoea, Chronic Snoring, Chronic Asthma, Chronic Blocked Nose, etc. are all indications that the respiratory centre that controls breathing has reset to that person’s detriment. Attempts to change this setting are usually unsuccessful using the conventional means available, because they all require you to breathe in a less than ideal way.

Sleep Apnoea is on the increase. Why? Because many of us have extremely stressful lives and we aren’t even aware of how our health has slowly eroded over time. Stress affects our breathing, and breathing affects our stress. Until breathing is also addressed and attended to, Sleep Apnoea is unlikely to improve over time.

The Sleep Apnoea – Diet – and – Alcohol – Connection:

Stress is the “New Normal” in our Modern Society.  Doctors tell us that Sleep Apnoea is likely due to increased weight gain. But increased weight gain is another symptom of stress – and is not always the cause of the stress although it certainly contributes to it!

Craving sugar is common with Sleep Apnoeics, because the brain will want extra sugary energy to replace the fact that it cannot get energy from constant and reliable oxygen supply chains. Medicine also says that alcohol is a trigger for sleep apnoea because it causes hyper-relaxation – and this is true. But alcohol is metabolized via the lungs as well as the liver, and so when we drink we have less oxygen supplied to the blood. (That’s why the traffic police can measure exactly how much you have imbibed from your exhaled breath…) This also affects breathing…. and breathing affects sleep apnoea. In the very least, allow sufficient time for the alcohol to have left your system before bed.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea:

Sleep Apnoea can be debilitating for some people. This is because over time, the loss of oxygen to the brain leads to anxiety, irritability and loss of function. Extreme fatigue is normal, because sleep apnoea sufferers are not experiencing true sleep – they are actually passed out from exhaustion! Apnoeas are long pauses in breathing, and during these pauses the brain is not receiving sufficient oxygen. After some time, the person often wakes up in an anxious state, gasping for breath, coughing or feeling breathless. Dizzy spells, brain fog, extreme tiredness and teeth grinding are all clues to sleep apnoea.

Can You Control Your Breathing When You Are Asleep?

Breathing rates and volumes are determined by our daytime “norms” and then “set” by the respiratory centre of the brain which has a high rate of neuroplasticity. This is believed to be a useful adaptation which allows us to automatically adjust breathing without having to think about it. Some automatic functions like blood pressure, cholesterol, hormones and so on, can be overcome with medicines – but you cannot normalize breathing using substances. This is because breathing naturally changes with every single stimulus including food, drink, temperature, medicine, mood, pain, pleasure and so on. This is probably why medical experts often have a “core belief” that breathing is not something we can have lasting control over.

But, you can overcome neuroplasticity if you know how, as Controlled Randomized trials of the Buteyko Method show. While medical professionals may feel skeptical about whether Buteyko can affect changes to lung capacity and so on, the results prove that people who use Buteyko techniques can overcome the symptoms of their breathing difficulties without resorting to additional medicines or devices. Doing the daily practice consistently does effect changes that are sustainable and long lasting.

You Can Do More Than You Realize To Help Yourself:

Adjunct health programs such as Buteyko have a pivotal role to play in the reduction of chronic disease, because Buteyko techniques are able to reduce breathing, Normalize breathing responses to stress; and increase oxygen delivery  – without inducing more stress. Unfortunately, some of the things we do to relax or to heal are simply mimicking and increasing stress patterns that may be detrimental to health and recovery, and so with the best intentions, we are often sabotaging any progress that we could be making.

Obviously diet and exercise play a role in good health, but it’s not necessary to cause more stress to reduce stress….Normalizing Breathing patterns is the most important thing you can do to reduce stress and recover your health.

©Buteyko South Africa



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