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  • Writer's pictureSpira Dental

Not breathing at night - this is what happens


Many people stop breathing during sleep. The number of people that completely stop breathing during sleep (aka sleep apnea) keeps increasing. What happens long term when someone is constantly not breathing enough can be quite complex - but we'll try to make it a little simpler!


Someone who is more at risk for not breathing during the night typically will struggle harder during each breath. When this happens there is more pressure inside the body than normal. This pressure inside the body will cause the wall of the heart to thicken. Since the heart is a muscle it needs to work harder to compensate for the pressure around it. In these people the heart is going to the gym too much and too often. The added pressure inside the body will also increase the pressure inside parts of the heart.


In addition, while trying to breathe during sleep will cause the brain to get into "fight or flight" mentality (increases sympathetic nervous system). Short-term this increases blood pressure and brief arousals that might not be remembered. This can also lead to the urge to go to the bathroom throughout the night. Long-term with short periods of "fight or flight" will lead to high blood pressure during the day as well as congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, or sudden death.


The constant "fight or flight" system going off through out the night will also lead to free radicals throughout the body. This causes a cascade of events that will cause the body's inflammatory system to cause plaque formations along the arteries. This slowly closes off the artery and can cause a blockage of the blood supply.



lungs, illustration

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