It is a complex breathing condition that interferes with your sleep pattern and your health in two prominent ways:
- Sleep Fragmentation – Disruptive as it interferes with your brain waves when you attempt to sleep. You also do not stay in a deep sleep, but rather restorative stages of sleep for most of the night. SDB forces you into lighter sleep stages that trigger hundreds of small awakenings that rob you of your sleep. If you sleep for 8 hours and suffer from SDB (moderate to severe) you will only get 4 -6 hours of solid sleep.
- Oxygen fluctuations – Alters the stability of oxygen levels your body receives and transfers into the bloodstream. Patients with SDB have fluctuating oxygen levels all night long, within a timespan as short as a few seconds. In a 30 second interval, oxygen can start at 94% drop to 91 in 10 seconds, and up to 93% in another 5 seconds, then drop to 89% in another 15 seconds. In severe cases it can deteriorate into desaturations where the oxygen levels drop between 90% for 10, 20, and 30 seconds or longer, before returning to the normal level above 90%. Oxygen levels can drop even lower, in REM sleep or when sleeping on your back.
SDB consists of more than a series of sleep apnea events, which is similar to a choking episode, where you stop breathing, from inhaling a piece of food into your windpipe for example. This may cause intense fear and panic in most people that will bring them to absolute alertness to solve the problem and fast. This happens with SDB when the airway closes down and all breathing stops. SDB may include a range of sleep breathing events where you can stop breathing, as well as your effort to breathe in gets compromised.