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Sleep Studies and How to Improve Your Sleep Now

On 24 November 2014 I suggested that you could adopt 7 measures pretty well immediately if you were experiencing poor sleep on a regular basis.

A sleep study occurs when you stay overnight at a sleep clinic. You are fitted with wires to your heart, brain, stomach, legs and fingers for the purpose of monitoring a myriad of bodily functions while you sleep.

By arranging a sleep study you (and your doctor) will obtain a comprehensive report on the architecture of your sleep. That is, the number of times you wake during the night, the proportion of sleep which was REM sleep (rapid eye movement) – which we all need -, the level of blood oxygen saturation, breathing effort, in particular, the number of apnoeas (pauses in breath of at least 10 seconds), the number of hypopneas (significant reduction in airflow of at least 10 seconds resulting in at least 4% decrease in blood oxygen saturation), heart rate, leg movements, posture and level of snoring.

If your sleep study shows at least one obstructive sleep apnoea or more than 30 hypopnea per hour it is very likely that the standard prescription will be for you to be “assisted” by a CPAP machine. Many people I have read about and who I have personally known experience significant difficulty in adjusting to their breathing being regulated by a CPAP machine.

During my first sleep study whilst lying on my back I experienced during an hour long period one obstructive sleep apnoea (lasting 29 seconds), and during 2 separate hour long periods I experienced a cluster of hypopneas (well in excess of 30 per hour) and a low blood oxygen saturation level of 83% (where the average value is 95%). When lying on your back your mouth is more likely to open as your jaw relaxes. You are then likely to breathe a greater volume of air than you need. Therefore avoid sleeping on your back.

The left side is the best side to sleep. Your left lung is smaller as it shares space with your heart. So everything is more compact and fits better. Having said that it is still ok to sleep on your right side and far more preferable than on your back.

Sleeping on a raised pillow or on two pillows keeps the airways open thereby helping to prevent a narrowing of the airways or a collapse of the walls of your throat.

It is advisable to avoid consuming alcohol and eating food up to 3 hours before sleeping as the ingestion and digestion of alcohol and food causes an increase in both the rate and volume of your breathing.

Why does it matter if you breathe through your mouth instead of your nose? Why do we need to be aware of whether we are breathing quickly or whether we are breathing too much air?

I will explore these issues in my next post.

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