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. After some time, the adaptation mechanism 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 norm. This means that the person feels anxious and stressed – even though they are not encountering stressors at the time. It also means that this is the “normal setting” – and 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 more than you need for normal metabolic functions, which in this case, will activate yet more stress.

Stress and Stressed Breathing:

Breathing more than you need causes imbalances of breathing gases. This usually results in lowered Bohr effect – which means that less oxygen is delivered to the tissues. This is extremely stressful for the body as no tissue cells can survive without good oxygen supply. This physiological stress also causes us to breathe more than we need, as increased breathing is a natural physiological response to stress and to lowered oxygen. The attempts to get more oxygen via the lungs, urges us to take in more air with each breath.

Breathing more air is already a stress reaction – but it can also stress you out too. Hyperventilation or increased breathing is a signal for the brain to be in Flight Fight or Freeze mode, and being in FFF mode encourages more stress. Thus, stress and the natural reaction of stressed breathing become a pattern that feeds itself.

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 also uses the lungs as well as the liver etc. to metabolize, and so when we drink we have less space for oxygen to be 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. Perhaps if you knew this, you would understand WHY alcohol is a trigger and use it less…in the very least before bedtime anyway…

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.

Other conditions that be be factors:

Holding your inhaled breath for long periods can also be harmful to the heart, because this action pressurizes the lungs, heart and diaphragm unnaturally for the duration of the breath hold. This affects our blood pressure, and also impacts our kidneys, our gut health and how we metabolize fats, sugars and proteins. Unbalanced breathing also has a massive impact on our pH levels and can be a major contributor to metabolic acidosis. These are all conditions that sleep apnoeics struggle with – without realizing that these conditions are all part and parcel of disordered and maladaptive breathing.

In a way, people with breathing issues like Sleep Apnoea have “used up” all their adaptive capacity and now function on a constant setting of “High Alert”. Because breathing is how we activate stress responses  – and also how we inactivate stress responses – some of us need to remind ourselves of what “normal” breathing is before we can heal properly from chronic conditions. This is because while stressed breathing is a trigger for Fight; Flight or Freeze stress responses; normal breathing is the trigger for relaxation and reduction of FFF responses.

Can You Control Your Breathing?

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 at sea level and altitude without having to think about it. After some time at different altitude the brain can re-set it’s breathing rate to cope with the new partial pressure of oxygen and other breathing gases. But this can also be the mechanism which “locks” bad breathing habits into place. 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 are able to consistently change their breathing to match their metabolic requirements 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 in a way that other interventions aren’t.

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 again – it’s not necessary to cause more stress to reduce stress….With the Buteyko Method we have a technique for doing everything better – to help you cope better.



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