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Work Related Stress? Sleep Apnea Could be the Real Reason

Prof. Ashfaq Hasan
HOD pulmonary Medicine, Owaisi Hospital and Research Center

They say, going to sleep is in itself an act of blind faith. When your eyes close and your body goes into the auto-pilot mode, you can only have faith that it will continue to function without any disruptions, till you wake up the next day. Imagine then, the horror of your breath stopping during the course of the night for some reason beyond your control, and you not even being aware of it!

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a condition where a person stops breathing at frequent intervals during sleep. When the breathing stops, the body experiences a lack of oxygen. This makes the body kick into a compensatory mode to reinitiate breathing which results in release of several hormones into the blood stream, leading to increase in stress levels. This erratic sleep pattern and interruptions in the normal breathing can have drastic consequences, according to Dr. Ashfaq (HOD Pulmonary Medicine, Owaisi Hospital and Research Center).

The stress caused by OSA on the body, results in various cardiovascular problems. Even during normal sleep, the body is predisposed to irregular heartbeats. In an apnic patient, this can lead to major aggravation as the heartbeat swing to extremes during sleep, resulting in sudden cardiac arrest. Many people suffering from OSA, therefore, die in their sleep if their condition remains undiagnosed and untreated.

Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and memory related problems. The effects of OSA spill-over into other aspects of life as well, making the person suffering from OSA irritable, exhausted and unable to communicate or think properly.

Sleep Apnea and Obesity
OSA and obesity in fact form a vicious circle; wherein an obese person is at a higher risk of developing Sleep Apnea and when an obese person has Sleep Apnea, he/she doesn't have enough energy to engage in physical exercise every day. As a result the obesity condition worsens and so does Sleep Apnea.

Dr. Ashfaq recommends to not to take chronic fatigue and exhaustion lightly. A patient of his, Suraj (name changed for privacy reasons), kept on blaming his elevated level of tiredness and exhaustion on his busy work schedule and mental stress, while the real reason behind his exhaustion was the lack of oxygen in his body due to disturbed sleep. He had even gained weight and was unable to exercise enough to lose weight as he would feel

dull and tired all the time. As soon as his Sleep Apnea condition was diagnosed and he started using the CPAP device, his sleep pattern started improving. Not only has he managed to lose weight and become more active, his quality of life has improved dramatically. Snoring, which is a common symptom of Sleep Apnea, is also an indicator of plaque build-up in the Carotid artery, which can have devastating effects on the blood circulation in brain.