Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is disrupted. A pause in breathing from 10 seconds to several minutes is called an apnea, and when this occurs 5+ times per hour, there is cause for concern. Alternately, very shallow breathing is referred to as hypopnea. An overnight oxymetry test can be administered to check for periods of low blood-oxygen levels that might indicate a need for a more comprehensive study called a polysomnogram. These tests measure the oxygen and pulse like the preliminary test, but also measure brain activity, eye movement, muscle activity, and heart rhythm.

Sleep apnea comes in different forms. The most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the one we associate with snoring, and it is caused by a true physical blockage of airflow. Less common is Central Sleep Apnea which is actually due to weak respiratory function. The brain’s control centers do not respond quickly enough. It’s difficult to say whether obesity is a cause or a symptom, because the daytime sleepiness caused by lack of restful sleep at night can exacerbate an already sedentary lifestyle. Another important factor may be thyroid function, as low thyroid function can lead to decreased energy levels too. This could be the factor that sets obesity and apnea into self-perpetuating cycle. In order to break the cycle, you will have to tackle all three things at once; get your thyroid regulated with supplemental medication, establish and maintain a regular exercise plan, and in extreme cases you may need to use a breathing mask at night to help you stay asleep and feel rested enough to get through your busy day.

Some daytime problems caused by sleep apnea (besides fatigue) include slowed reaction, vision problems, memory and learning difficulties, attention deficit, mood swings/depression, liver disease, and insomnia or sleep paralysis. Sleep apnea is more common in men, elderly people, and people who are obese, though it can happen to anyone. The problem is usually first noticed by a partner or spouse who has difficulty sleeping due to the loud snoring. Some suggested methods for dealing with sleep apnea and snoring include avoiding cigarettes, alcohol and muscle relaxers, losing weight, and sleeping with your upper body elevated or on your side. You can even do tongue exercises to strengthen the muscles if that is the cause of the obstruction. In severe cases, breathing machines or even corrective surgery may be necessary. A CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) provides a steady flow of oxygen throughout the night, while surgery involves tightening soft tissue in the airway (tonsils, uvula, and the surrounding tissue). Both can end up being very expensive, so weight loss and other lifestyle adjustments are highly recommended as preventative measures.

Sleep apnea is also associated with heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and auto accidents. If you can prevent or avoid it by simple tweaks like walking, eating healthier foods, or cutting back on drinking, the benefits are tremendous.
You can check out the results of my oxymetry test here.

Overnight Oximetry Results

I had my follow-up appointment last Thursday and I requested to have a printout of my overnight oximetry test so I could post it for you fine folks! The cough is much better. Lung sounded fine and the nurse practitioner was not terribly concerned about any residual issues. She said this may be a thing I deal with in my life, that I get a lung infection and then my airways are constricted and not all of the junk makes its way out. She said I could just tell my doctor some prednisone as a follow-up to antibiotics would do the trick to clear me up. That’s fine by me as the stuff is much cheaper than asthma medicine. She was reluctant to call is asthma anyway.

So on with the sleep test. They wanted to check (since I’m a big girl) if my airflow was cut off during the night at all. Sleep apnea is a very serious thing. It can lead to grogginess during the day when focus is necessary, making it dangerous to drive or operate machinery. It can cause morning headaches and relative to that cause some brain damage.

Test date: 06/23/13
Start: 00:09:55
End: 08:08:07
Highest pulse: 112
Lowest pulse: 58
Mean pulse: 76
Highest SpO2: 99%
Lowest SpO2: 87%
Mean SpO2: 94.9%
Time with SpO2<90% 0:01:04 0.2%
Longest continuous time with saturation = 10 sec & <= 3 mins was 49.4 sec. Desaturation event index (events per hour) 4.4

pulseox

The nurse said they were not really concerned with the results, because the events per hour were less than 7, and I only spent about a minute with oxygen levels below 90% out of almost 8 full hours of sleep. It’s still a consideration for the future, but doesn’t require immediate attention. What I absolutely love about this readout is that you can see the 90 minute cycles of sleep. Maybe someday just for kicks I’ll have a full polysomnogram, because I think it would be very interesting to have a personal account of how these figures tie together. I’ve never had an EEG, but they fascinate me.

ZOMBIE DREAMS!

Happy August! I almost let the day get away from me, because I am very much feeling like the subject of today’s entry: ZOMBIES!

I had no idea these were so popular, but zombie dreams ranked right up there with lucid dreaming and insomnia. When I think of zombie dreams, I don’t necessarily think of the “hordes of hungry undead” type zombies. In my dreams, they are certainly in varying states of decay, but I usually only see one, and it’s not inherently threatening. The sight of an animated corpse is just incredibly unnerving, whether it would eat you or just bring you another cup of coffee.

So what came first, zombies or animated corpse nightmares? I’m certain people have been having zombie nightmares for as long as people have been dying and dreaming. It was probably a lot more common when your daily life might involve seeing a corpse. (Those poor cops and morticians! I think it’s bad enough when I have repetitive dreams about filing paperwork. Geez!) How often do you dream that you’re talking to someone you know is dead? One of the major facets of any culture is treatment of the dead, and it’s not surprising to want to bring the dead back to life. We just don’t want them to return to life as their body continues to decay.

As you may or may not be aware, “zombie” comes to us from the West African Vodun tradition. These were revived by a bokor and are essentially mindless servants. It’s a fantastic idea, and one that Harvard ethnobotanist Wade Davis suggested is inaccurate. Davis proposed that the zombies had never been dead to begin with, they had simply been given a substance that put them into a state of suspended animation, after which they would be revived in a state of psychosis.

So real zombies aren’t much like the movie zombies that have been spreading through pop culture. They went from terrifying speculation to excellent comedy and now they’re just a part of fictional nature, being cartooned onto children’s school supplies, like unicorns and dragons. They begin to lose their scare factor when so many people are prepared for a zombie apocalypse.

…then you have a dream about zombies and remember just how scary they are!

I’m not big on interpreting dream symbols, because symbols seem to vary in meaning from person to person. If a zombie chases you and you are scared, it probably means the same thing as if a clown chases you and you are scared. That said, here is the most commonly copy+pasted snippet I’ve found.

“To see or dream that you are a zombie suggests that you are physically and/or emotionally detached from people and situations that are currently surrounding you. You are feeling out of touch. Alternatively, a zombie means that you are feeling dead inside. You are just going through the motions of daily living.

To dream that you are attacked by zombies indicate that you are feeling overwhelmed by forces beyond your control. You are under tremendous stress in your waking life. Alternatively, the dream represents your fears of being helpless and overpowered.” – dreammoods.com

This gets paraphrased all over the internet. If you’re the zombie, you’re feeling detached. If you’re chased by zombies, you’re feeling overwhelmed. No wonder zombie dreams are so common, that describes the workforce at large.

But what about a dream of a single animated corpse, all sinewy and disgusting? What if it’s not chasing you or in any other way threatening you, but the sight of it still makes your skin crawl? That’s the kind of zombie dreams I have most often. Realistically, something that decayed would barely be able to stand, and maybe it’s that unnatural element that creeps me out.

Have you had a zombie dream/nightmare? Please comment!