Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. According to the National Institute of Health, sleep apnea affects more than 12 million Americans. Risk factors consist of being male, overweight, a narrowed airway, family history, alcohol use, smoking, certain medications and being over the age of forty.

In sleep apnea, the person’s breathing stops for 10 to 20 seconds or gets very shallow, resulting in decreased blood oxygen saturation. When the lungs do not receive sufficient air, the oxygen level in the blood drops and normal breaths sound like a snort or choking noise.

Systemic Inflammation Is Common In Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is associated with systemic and airway inflammation. The underlying inflammation in sleep apnea has been attributed to upper airway mechanical tissue injury and to systemic hypoxemia (low concentration of oxygen in blood). Here are the recent findings:

–Patients with sleep apnea revealed augmented oxidative stress, which puts a burden on the antioxidant systems.

–Increased circulating levels of inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) have been reported in adults as well as in children with sleep apnea. The CRP levels are reduced with effective treatment.

–Immune cells of sleep apnea patients make increased inflammatory cytokines.

–Elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines correlate with the degree of sleepiness and the seriousness of hypoxia.

–Hypoxia during sleep causes lipid oxidation and heart muscle dysfunction.

Inflammation Links COPD And Sleep Apnea

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airway and the lungs. Recent studies have suggested that COPD also involves systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. OSA shares several important features with COPD.

–20% of patients with sleep apnea have COPD;

–10% of sleep apnea is disclosed in COPD patients;

–63% of sleep apnea patients have history of smoking, a predisposing factor for both sleep apnea and COPD;

–Both COPD and sleep apnea are critically involved in initiating cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.

Inflammation Links Sleep Apnea And Metabolic Disorders

Sleep apnea is often associated with obesity and increased incidence of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Studies suggest that inflammation is a common pathway connecting sleep apnea, obesity and metabolic syndrome synergistically.

Other health conditions associated with sleep apnea include memory troubles, weight gain, impotency, headaches and psychosocial distress. Apparently, these conditions all have pro-inflammatory states.

Sleep Apnea May Lead To Cardiovascular Problems And Cognitive Impairment

Sleep apnea is considered as a serious medical condition because it may trigger life-threatening complications such as heart attack and stroke. Recent study suggests that older women with sleep-disordered breathing had an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment.

Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels (hypoxia or hypoxemia) during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your risk of high blood pressure increases two to three times than if you don’t. The more serious is your sleep apnea, the greater is the risk of high blood pressure. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of stroke, despite whether you have high blood pressure.

If you already have underlying heart disease, multiple incidents of low blood oxygen can lead to irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmias), heart attack (myocardial infarction), even a sudden death.

Treating Sleep Apnea To Prevent Cardiovascular Problems

There are different treatment options for sleep apnea. For milder cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking or drinking may be effective. If these changes do not improve your signs and symptoms or if your apnea is moderate to severe, many other treatments are offered. Certain devices, i.e., Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or Adjustable Airway Pressure Devices, may help open up a blocked airway.

Surgery offers different approach to open up the airway which removes excess tissue from your nose or throat that may be blocking your air passages and causing sleep apnea.

Anti-inflammatory Remedies For Sleep Apnea Relief

Alternative treatments for sleep apnea focus on stress relief and sleep support. Acupuncture or natural sleeping aid remedies can relieve mild symptoms. Anti-inflammatory remedies, however, present a novel approach that may deliver long-term solutions to sleep apnea sufferers.

By cooling inflammation, anti-inflammatory remedies may:

–Lower oxidative stress and restore the body’s antioxidant defense;

–Neutralize noxious toxins and relieve fatigue;

–Help recover vascular, metabolic, respiratory functions;

–Increase blood flow and oxygen supplies to the body and brain.