Ownership of plants is an exercise. For some, their bread won’t ever rise. (Um, me.) Others, apply maschera like a windshield wiper. (Those people. Um, me.) Me, these are true, along with the exercise of owning plants, which is essentially expensive composting. They never live long.
These are different in my book than trees. I’ve got some duplicity here, I realize. Yes trees are plants but I think of them differently. More human. I classify leafy potted things as “plants.” If there were “Plant Protective Services,” (PPS), some social worker somewhere would have thick files on me. I’d never make it out of court.
But even I, plant abuser that I am, know that if you don’t water a plant it will “wilt”. Yup. Bookmark this post. Words of wisdom.
Marvelous as that pearl is, being a brain doctor and all, I can’t help but parallel that the brain will wilt without oxygen.
There is a disease called Obstructive Sleep Apnea which describes this very misery. What generally happens is the tube through which air goes from your mouth to your lungs, called the pharynx, collapses for any number of seconds, over and over throughout your sleep. Over time, the brain cells change, and diseases develop, secondary to “anoxia.”
The story goes something like this. The brain senses that there isn’t enough oxygen. As oxygen is carried on red blood cells to the brain, just like it is to any and every cell in your body, the brain interprets this as not getting enough red blood cells. As red blood cells are pumped to your brain from the heart, the brain tells your heart to “Get working! Pump harder! Pump more oxygen-carrying red blood cells. We’re wilting over here!” The heart dutifully pumps, like a champion.
What is the heart? Mostly muscle. What happens to a muscle when it gets worked is, …It gets sexy! Right? Venice-Muscle-beach type of sexy. Ding! …Um, or just muscly.
Every cell in the body, requires oxygen to live. Even muscle. Even heart muscle. So heart muscle has it’s own arteries that bring oxygen-carrying red blood cells to it’s muscle cells to live. The oxygen “perfuses” the muscle and the muscle is healthy, not like my potted plants. But when that heart muscle gets extra work-outs, like any body builder, the muscle wall of the heart grows thicker. The heart wall however was given arteries to perfuse a wall thickness less robust than that and eventually the heart wall gets too thick for it to get its own oxygen. Compost. You got it. After time enough, the heart wall will die. That thickened muscle won’t get enough oxygen, and it will die. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a leading cause of early heart attack.
And, oh yes! there’s more! If this isn’t bad enough, boys can’t keep their erections. Wilted.
Related problems are happening everywhere in this body. Brain cells are dying. Any variety of brain diseases develop, including early dementia, depression, anxiety, and more. Day time sleepiness happens, and Boom! You’re falling asleep while driving. And you’re eating more. Yup. Good news after more good news.
When we don’t get enough oxygen at night, we don’t get enough sleep. During the day, therefore, our brain is falling asleep on and off throughout the day. Our eyes may be open, but we are actually in there early stages of sleep. Then, our subconscious tell us to eat. No respect! We can’t catch a break! That’s because food and eating release stimulating hormones and we wake up a bit more. But,… we also get more fat. The fat then pushes down harder on our poor suffering airway at night and our disease, obstructive sleep apnea, worsens! Round and round like that lovely Krispy Cream Doughnut, we go. Eating, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, eating, more obesity, and more apnea. Burp.
Now why would the pharynx collapse? What is it’s problem, anyway?! Generally it’s because it just can’t stay open under all that weight. We’re too fat and heavy. Those poor oxygen molecules are out of luck spelunking through that tunnel.
The brain, is super tired after all this. All night, it’s been rudely and repeatedly awakened, gasping sounds like fog horns through the night herald the body’s cry for oxygen. Nobody can get any sleep around here, not even you. All night your brain is waking you up, even if you don’t know it, to get a deeper breath of air. You’re constantly being pulled out of a deeper sleep into a state where your pharyngeal muscles can take over again, push open, and allow yourself to breath.
Because you aren’t fully conscious when this is happening, the best way to discover this is to get a sleep study, called a polysomnogram. During this study, you have a type of electroencephalogram, where specialists study your brain activity, as well as your different levels of oxygenation, and more.
After this lovely post, it may surprise you that bucket loads of people avoid getting a sleep study, but they do. There are many barriers to getting treatment in obstructive sleep apnea, that on paper, seem tiny. Today, let’s breathily say, they’re there, they’re real, and we acknowledge them. We are just trying to understand some of the, “why?,” your psychiatrist keeps saying you need oxygen to have a healthy brain. Go figure.
Self-care tip: Everyone deserves a sleep study. Please consider.
Question: What are your barriers to getting a sleep study? What are your barrier toward getting other medical studies? Please tell us your stories. We know the barriers are real. We know the barriers are common. Please speak out!