Breathing badly all day and all night

What many people who have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) issues do not realise is that there is a problem with their breathing pattern before they stop breathing, and it is this abnormal breathing that causes the apnoea. And what also does not readily seem connected to this problem is that people with OSA also have erratic or an unusual breathing pattern when they are awake.

Historically, people with OSA have a habit of chronic snoring before they develop sleep apnoea. Chronic snoring is the sound of an abnormal breathing pattern.

People do not have apnoeas during sleep continuously, but instead they seem to be periodic. Directly before the apnoea occurs, the breathing becomes louder and louder. When the person wakes momentarily to end the apnoea, there is one big snort or gasp before the breathing is relatively quiet again. Only after the breathing once again reaches a crescendo, is there an apnoea.

Because you are asleep, you are not aware that this is happening, but try to observe your breathing while you are awake and you will begin to notice that your breathing is not normal even then. Perhaps you:

+ Breathe a lot through your mouth
+ Use your upper chest muscles to breathe with when you are not doing anything strenuous
+ Breathe relatively fast for the level of activity
+ Breathe erratically, rather than rhythmically - even when you are awake
+ Do lots of sighing, yawning or other forceful-type breathing
+ Breathe heavily when you are not exerting yourself

Again, these unusual breathing patterns do not have to be continuous. Instead it might be that some of the time you breathe through your mouth, using your upper chest muscles, and at other times you do lots of sighing or yawning for no apparent reason.

 Jodieanne Coffee has written two articles that I have found which explore the idea that people with chronic low-grade hyperventilation is linked to OSA. And William Gardner in his article the Pathophysiology of Hyperventilation Disorders discusses the technicalities.

What this all means in real life is that if you can normalise your breathing pattern when you are awake, then this will automatically normalise it when you are asleep.