Learn About the Sleep Cycle (and How OSA Affects It)

How does sleep apnea affect the sleep cycle?Individuals that suffer from sleep apnea can temporarily stop breathing between five and 100 times an hour while they are sleeping. This can be especially disruptive to the sleep cycle, which is essential for cellular repair, a strong memory and a host of other physiological functions. Simply put, constantly disrupting the sleep cycle can lead to a variety of health concerns.

Here, Northfield Dental Group discusses the sleep cycle, how obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can affect it and what to do if you think you have OSA.

The Sleep Cycle

When we sleep, we cycle between REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep. The entire sleep cycle repeats itself about every 90 minutes.

The first stage of the sleep cycle involves extremely light non-REM sleep, which may last about five to 10 minutes. During this time, it is easy to wake up the person sleeping. We then enter light non-REM sleep, during which the heart rate slows and body temperature decreases. The third stage of the cycle involves deep non-REM sleep, during which it is harder to wake someone up.

After these first three stages, we experience REM sleep. This stage occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. The first period of REM sleep generally lasts about 10 minutes, with the subsequent period lasting longer and the final period lasting up to one hour. Then, the entire cycle repeats itself.

How Sleep Apnea Affects the Sleep Cycle

The most intense episodes of sleep apnea, including OSA, often occur during REM sleep, which is thought to be the period of sleep when the brain processes the day’s experiences and organizes memory. After one night of disruptive REM sleep, an individual might have trouble concentrating or feel extremely drowsy the following day; this alone can be dangerous, especially when driving or operating heavy machinery. After several nights of disruptive REM sleep, memory can start to suffer.

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of how sleep apnea and disruptive sleep cycles can lead to health concerns. Over time, not getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep each night can lead to weight gain, cardiovascular problems and other health issues.

Get a Better Night’s Sleep

If you wake up in the mornings feeling more tired than you did before you went to bed the night before; if you feel drowsy during the day; or if you have a hard time focusing, you might be suffering from a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. To schedule an appointment with a sleep apnea dentist and start on your way to getting a better night’s sleep, contact Northfield Dental Group by calling (973) 736-0111 now.