Sleeping Pills and Sleep Apnea

Health disorders are rampant among human beings. This must be because of the busy world that we are in now, and the many harmful substances that we ingest every day of our lives. Almost everyone has a health problem, and it is not surprising – even the earth is suffering from diseases. But one of the most common health problems nowadays is sleep disorder, and millions and millions of people suffer from it.

One of the most common sleep disorders in the world today is sleep apnea. It is a medical condition characterized by the cessation of breathing during sleep which is caused either by a physical or a neurological problem, or both. The physical cause usually results to obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea that affects 84% of all sleep apnea sufferers. Meanwhile, the neurological cause results to central sleep apnea, which is far less common, affecting only 0.4% of all sleep apnea sufferers. When the cause is both physical and neurological, the result is the mixed sleep apnea, which affects 15% of all sleep apnea sufferers.

Unlike many sleeping disorders, sleep apnea cannot be resolved by sleeping pills. This is because sleep apnea is not actually caused by sleeplessness. Instead, the apnea is what causes sleeplessness. A person with sleep apnea can fall asleep easily, just like normal people. But what’s different about them when they go to sleep is that the quality of their sleep is very poor. They may not know it, but their sleep is divided into many episodes of apnea, which causes sleep fragmentation.

When apnea occurs, a sleeping person stops breathing. In obstructive sleep apnea, this is because of the blockage of the airway due to the collapse of the throat muscles. In central sleep apnea, this is because the brain fails to send signals to the respiratory system that it needs to perform a breathing cycle, and misses a breathing cycle altogether. Once the breathing stops, the blood oxygen level drops, and the brain responds by making the body subconsciously gasp for air. This is only subconscious, and an individual who suffers from sleep apnea may not even know that he gasps for air every night. What’s even worse is that apneic episodes may occur as often as twice every five minutes, stressing the heart and lowering blood oxygen, resulting to many other health problems.

Why can’t sleeping pills be helpful in treating sleep apnea? The truth is sleeping pills can even result to the worsening of sleep apnea. For an individual with obstructive sleep apnea, taking sleeping pills can only make the air passageway more blocked. This is because sleeping pills are sedatives, just like alcohol, which can cause relaxation in the muscles. When the throat muscles are affected by sleeping pills, they tend to come together even more to further block the airway, making obstructive sleep apnea worse.

In any type of apnea, taking sleeping pills can be dangerous because of their sedative nature. They may lower the ability of the respiratory system to respond to low oxygen levels, which means that a person may not be able to gasp for air if he feels short or out of breath. Respiratory reflex is also impeded by sedatives, making the lungs and other respiratory organs weaker and less able to cope with the lack of oxygen in the body.

This practically means that sleeping pills can cause death in sleep apnea patients because they may not be able to regain their breath even if they awaken, or they may not awaken because of the effects of the sleeping pills. The best way to treat sleep apnea is by using a PAP machine. Consult your health provider and never self-medicate. Even if you do have knowledge about your medical problem, it is best to ask the advice of the real professionals.