Articles - Your Health Magazine, March 2008
Women, Breathing, Sleep Apnea, Menopause, Posture and More – Part I
Part One of Three
The body design priority is for survival. We address this in cardiopulmonary resuscitation referred to as CPR when we sequence our actions as ABC or Airway, then Breathing then Circulation. The body automatically functions in a CPR priority from mini-second to mini-second managing the airway to allow oxygen to get to the cells. Apparently, the body reacts to what it sees as inadequate air flow to maintain adequate oxygen to all cells, rather than waiting until the air is completely cut off as in choking and a classic obstructive sleep apnea event.
The only varying portion of the airway is the throat, an opening to the mouth in the front of the airway. The back of the tongue varies the airway opening there, as it can just fill the front of the throat closing the opening to the mouth while retaining the full cross sectional size of the airway or it can extend from partially into the throat narrowing the airway or all the way to the back of the throat, blocking the airway, causing choking. Scientific publications now appear to suggest that a compromised airway (or throat) may be a twenty-four hour a day phenomenon, not just when we are asleep.
Scientific literature and consensus reports support the premise that there is a correlation between adrenaline release as in the “fight or flight” phenomenon and body management of the airway, airflow and oxygen delivery to the cells. The increase of adrenaline increases muscle tone of the tongue and supporting throat muscles, increases breathing rate to get more air in faster through a narrower opening (as in snoring and apnea) and increases heart rate and blood pressure to circulate the oxygen faster to the cells.
The continuum from mild snoring to severe sleep apnea is an indicator of varying blockage of the airway in the throat, mostly by the rear portion of the tongue as it loses muscle tone and droops down and backwards during sleep, the depth and the restful and restorative levels of which depends upon decreasing levels of adrenaline type hormones in the system.
Men show a gradual steady increase in the incidence and severity of disordered breathing (snoring and sleep apnea) over their lifetime. Women appear to have a much lower incidence and degree of severity of this pre-menopause. The ratio of men to women is eight or 10 for men to one for women. Post-menopause the ratio is two for men to one for women.
Save this article, as it leads into part two in your next Your Health Magazine issue.