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Sleep Apnea, Sleep Deprivation and Sleep Debt


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One of the most profound symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea is excessive daytime somnolence or sleepiness. This is exacerbated by the constant arousals during sleep which can alter the person's sleep cycle and limit the amount of restorative sleep required to provide the adequate rest and energy to function in our everyday lives.

The average adult requires as much as eight hours of sleep per night. If you don't get eight hours of sleep you are literally creating a sleep debt. Your sleep debt can increase over time as you lose more and more sleep each night. The greater your sleep debt or sleep deprivation the more affected as on your mental and physical abilities. This can greatly reduce overall performance and alertness.

Studies have shown that the drowsiness caused by sleep debt may be compared to the effects of drinking alcohol. In many states in the United States, the legal limit for blood alcohol is 0.08. A study found that when a person has been awake for 18 hours it is comparable to the impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05. If a person continues wake for 24 hours, it can jump as high as 0.10, which is well above legal blood alcohol levels. This may severely affect your ability to drive and function with any semblance of alertness.

One study found that 64 percent of adults say they achieve less than eight hours of sleep per night. Even worse, 30 percent report six hours or less. This amounts to a large sleep debt!

Now this should have you looking in the window of every car that passes you on the street! The U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that drowsy driving is a causing factor in over 100,000 reported crashes annually, which involves 76,000 injuries and up to 1500 deaths. The statistics are frightening.

Because of our circadian rhythm, or body clock, there are two times during a 24-hour period when most people are naturally sleepy. The most common times for sleep deprivation related accidents are from midnight to 8:00 a. m. and 1:00 p. m. to 3:00 p. m.

What are some of the common signs of drowsy driving?

Tailgate others or miss traffic signs

Catch yourself " nodding off " and may have difficulty keeping your head up

Your attention is scattered and your thoughts wander

You may drift in from lane to lane

You may not recall miles driven

Difficulty keeping your eyes open

And ability to focus

If you find yourself in any or all of these situations you are at great risk for a car accident.

Alcohol and sleep deprivation can increase your chances of an accident. If you have sleep debt and you add alcohol, which can naturally make you sleepy, you may be greatly lowering your physical and mental alertness. In fact, one study found that one beer on only four hours of sleep might have the same impact as a full six-pack of beer on someone who has had eight hours of sleep.

Great care should be taken with all medications, both over the counter and prescription. Medications of special interest are muscle relaxants, cold tablets or liquid, antidepressants, sleeping pills, narcotic pain medications, tranquilizers and even some medications prescribed for hypertension. Many of these medications can cause drowsiness on their own and may be labeled as such.

Charles Manos

There is a plethora of information on the internet regarding Sleep Apnea, but often times it is extremely technical and simple answers are not easily found. We are guys who see the severity of this disorder and the success of treatment on a nightly basis. We are Board Credentialed as Polysomnographic Technologists, trained in the identification and treatment of sleep related breathing disorders, particularly Sleep Apnea. Visit us at Sleep Apnea for the Layman or


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