The official blog of the Lung Institute.
The average American spends one third of their life sleeping. Although that seems like a catchy phrase used to sell mattresses, it also speaks a lot to the importance of sleep on our health. When you consider that for one third of our lives we are essential unconscious, it makes keeping good health during that time something out of our control. However, just as you visit the dentist every six months, there are a few things that you can do to help prepare your body for sleeping. First and foremost, it will help to know these interesting facts about breathing while you sleep.
Your Lungs and Your Sleep
When you sleep, your lungs go through various ventilation cycles. As your brain shifts from an active state when you are awake to a more passive state when you first fall asleep, your lungs adapt to this by changing its rate of ventilation. During the non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), the ventilation in the body decreases steadily to about 15 percent of what is normal for a healthy awake person.
The rate of inhalation and exhalation moves into a more erratic pattern when the body moved deeper into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. People experience deep and heavy breathing followed by a bout of short apnea, or a stoppage in breathing. These moments may seem random, but they are directly connected to bursts of eye movement and brain activity. These shifts in breathing can cause some people to develop central sleep apnea, a debilitating sleeping condition where brain activity can cause harmful apnea episodes throughout the night.
No matter which cycle of sleep you are in, the act of sleeping itself causes irregular breathing. This often causes the body to see a decrease in oxygen in the bloodstream which can lead to further complications like morning headaches. Additionally, for those that suffer from a lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), there is an added loss of oxygen from the symptoms of their disease. This can lead to serious hypertension issues and even cardiovascular problems.
The best way to protect your lungs while you sleep is to keep them healthy while you are awake. Getting the right amount of exercise and sticking to a healthy diet can make huge strides in making sure your sleep hours are as healthy as your awake ones. Also, as is true regardless of your health condition, smoking is a habit that must be dropped.
If you or a loved one suffers from a lung disease and would like to breathe easier while awake and asleep, the Lung Institute may be able to help. Contact our patient coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to find out if you qualify. Everyone deserves healthy lungs, and everyone deserves to breathe easier.