Oxygen Levels Can Effect Your Sleep

What is normal and abnormal blood oxygen levels during sleep?

Low sleep apnea oxygen level is a sign that your treatment for sleep apnea is not effective. Patients with breathing problems during sleep (sleep apnea, COPD) often have low oxygen levels in their blood. A normal blood oxygen level should be between 94% to 98%. As a result of not breathing for 30 seconds or more during sleep, your sleep apnea oxygen level would drop to 80% or less. Anything below 90% oxygen level is dangerous to your body and require intervention. Another thing to consider is that the brain can only survive 4 minutes once oxygen is completely cut off.

What are your Oxygen Levels during Sleep Apnea?

In sleep, the upper airway muscle tone of the patients with sleep apnea tends to narrow and collapses temporarily. When this happens, the breathing stops accompanied by a drop in blood oxygen levels and arousal from sleep. The low oxygen levels during sleep can make you feel very tired in the morning and will contribute to more restless sleep. When the oxygen levels start to drop, the carbon dioxide levels build up in your blood. This can lead to morning headaches, fatigue and sleepiness during the day.

How does Sleep Apnea Oxygen Level affect the body?

Any value of blood oxygen level below 92% is abnormal however, the number of desaturations and the time spent with abnormal oxygen levels is important. If you only desaturated below 92% once or twice during a 7 hour sleep, and the desaturation level lasted only a couple of seconds, it's not a reason for worry. Your body will be seriously affected when you'll have long term low oxygen levels. 

This can lead to:

  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Increasing pressure on the right side of the heart
  • Fluid buildup in the body
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke

How does one monitor your Blood Oxygen Levels?

If your doctor discovers that your blood oxygen level (oxygen saturation) is less than about 90% during the day (when you are resting), then your oxygen levels are probably dropping during the night. This means that you have sleep apnea, or other respiratory disorders, like UARS. Your doctor may recommend overnight monitoring of your oxygen levels using an oximeter (portable saturation monitor) which is attached to your finger. This device is used to record your sleep apnea oxygen level and pulse rate during sleep. A medically approved oximeter is truly a great tool to see how well CPAP is working for you. If you have a low blood oxygen level, follow up with the sleep study as soon as possible. Continued drops in O2 levels will cause damage to cognitive function, short term memory, stroke and heart attack in your sleep and a host of other problems.

How can one improve your Sleep Apnea Oxygen Level?

Patients with sleep apnea are usually treated with CPAP machines. If apnea episodes disappear, the oxygen levels will improve to normal levels.

Sharon Izak Elaine Chat staff