How Sleep Apnea Impacts Athletic Performance
Studies have shown* that sleep apnea can have a detrimental effect on your fitness. Happily, it’s a treatable condition and, with the right help, you can get your sleep patterns and fitness plans back on track.
As the nights get lighter and the summer draws closer, many of us are inspired to improve our health and fitness by taking up a sport or embarking on an exercise regime. Our activity levels, commitment and diet choices play a key role in the success of our fitness plans, but there is an important element that is often overlooked – our sleeping patterns.
Having a good night’s sleep is crucial to performing well at your chosen activity. Unfortunately, for people with sleep apnea, getting that all-important shut-eye is often easier said than done.
Sleep Apnea and Sporting Performance
Sleep apnea is a condition which causes the throat muscles to relax and block the airway during sleep. Your brain is then prompted to pull you out of your deep sleep so that your airway can reopen and normal breathing can resume. This can happen many times throughout the night, leaving sufferers tired and sleep deprived.
It is a serious condition with a raft of associated health problems, including memory loss, depression, high blood pressure and even diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies have also shown that sleep apnea can have a detrimental impact on your fitness levels.
*A study carried out by San Diego School of Medicine compared the cardiovascular performance of sleep apnea sufferers with a group of people who do not have the condition. They discovered that those with sleep apnea appeared to display decreased aerobic fitness levels in comparison to the control group.
While this apparent link needs more investigation, lead author of the study, Dr. Jeremy Beitler, asserted that “there is likely a very strong independent relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and exercise capacity.”
Despite this, having sleep apnea does not mean you should give up on your fitness plans (indeed losing weight can actually help to alleviate symptoms). It is a treatable condition and there are a number of avenues open to you.
Mild cases of sleep apnea are fairly straightforward to treat. Simply making some lifestyle changes, such as sleeping on your side, losing weight or drinking less alcohol can be enough to stop your symptoms, as can wearing a specialized mouth guard.
If you suffer from a moderate or severe form of the disease, there are two main treatment routes available to you. A positive airway pressure (CPAP) device helps to keep your airway open while you sleep by delivering a constant air supply via a mask. Alternatively, you could look at wearing a neurostimulation device, which combines a sleep apnea implant with an electric current to contract the tongue and open the airway.
Some cases may require surgical intervention, but these are rare and surgery is generally only used as a last resort.
Sleep Is Vital For Good Health
Getting enough sleep is so important – for your general health and well-being, as well as for those all-important fitness plans. If you suffer, or think you might suffer from sleep apnea, make sure you seek advice from an expert.
As a first port of call head to your family doctor who can assess your symptoms and refer you to a sleep center for diagnosis. You can then access the appropriate treatment route for your condition and lifestyle which will help put a stop to those nightly sleep interruptions. And with a good night’s sleep under your belt you’ll be fighting fit in no time.