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Sleep Apnea and Your Breathing


Normal, healthy breathing occurs when you breathe in and out of your nasal passage. This is when there is no obstruction like sleep apnea, but you may deal with allergies, acute rhinitis, or a deviated septum. Breathing through your nose cleans and moistens the air, and creates nitric oxide for your body. In children, nasal breathing is ideal because it keeps the tongue at the roof of the mouth helping the hard palate to grow wide and flat, as it should. Simply put, nasal breathing is how we should be breathing naturally.

During an apneic event, your tongue falls to the back of your throat, blocking your airway, and not allowing air to pass through. This event, where you aren’t breathing, is not like holding your breath under water.

Sleep Apnea is a temporary cessation in breathing that can cause a lack of oxygen in the body or even CRPS, and in the moment when you need to breathe in, you are literally trading that oxygen that you need for the sleep that your body desperately needs, one second at a time. Your body is trading oxygen for sleep.

You know now how sleep apnea affects your breathing, but what does it actually feel like?

sleeping together

Let’s do this critical point breathing exercise to find out:

  • 1. Breathe in and out a couple of times
  • 2. Breathe out all your air… now stop and hold your breath!

How long were you able to hold your breath for?

Important: Please do not participate in this exercise if you have a heart condition, are pregnant, or have any other medical concern that would put your life at risk from an increased heart rate or a slight dip in oxygen.

Apnea happens at a point in your breathing pattern called P Critical. That pattern is when you exhale, there is a slight pause in your respiration. As you exhale all of your air, during that pause, your airway becomes floppy and it will collapse as you start to breathe in. When you take that deep breath in, your airway collapses and you can’t breathe. It’s after you’ve exhaled all of your carbon dioxide but before you were able to get that oxygen in.

This is why 10 seconds is so important when it comes to sleep apnea!

couples struggling with sleep apnea

If you were able to hold your breath for 10 seconds as you just did this exercise, you might have started to feel your heart race, or started to focus on breathing again.
Maybe you have already been tested for sleep apnea, and you know you don’t have sleep apnea! If this is your case, that’s great news!

Maybe you think your bed partner should go take a sleep test because they snore as loud as an alarm clock and you feel back to work pain. Or maybe you have read our other articles on sleep apnea and you know of some symptoms of sleep apnea, and you’re thinking of a few people right now that need to go get a sleep test. If that’s the case, share this link with them today!

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