What's Hyperventilation got to do with Sleep Problems?

Can both your sleep clinic tests and Buteyko be right?

You might stop breathing in your sleep, or you have been told that you don't have enough air flow for some of the time and so your oxygen levels are dropping dangerously low when you sleep. Buteyko talks about how breathing too much, or hyperventilation, is linked to conditions like snoring and sleep apnoea, so how can both Buteyko and your sleep clinic tests be right?

People who have problems with sleep apnoea rarely breathe so erratically all night. Instead the episodes of reduced airflow and not breathing are spasmodic, and it is the breathing in between these episodes, and immediately before them, that Buteyko is interested in.

When you breathe too fast or forcefully you drive off more carbon dioxide, and this leads to less oxygen delivery to the tissue cells (Bohr effect). Now all parts of your body are receiving a little less oxygen than is healthy and so they cannot function to their usual potential, or they may malfunction.

As well as driving off too much carbon dioxide, breathing hard or forcefully causes the snoring sound and it also causes the airways to become sucked together. Read on to find out a little more about these problems...

What has Hyperventilation got to do with Snoring?
Hyperventilation causes airway narrowing, and when air is pushed through a smaller space it begins to move more quickly (Venturi effect). The narrowed airway and faster movement of the air are two factors that cause the tissues to vibrate, making the snoring sound.

The level of metabolism during sleeping is very low, and so healthy people breathe quietly and gently through their nose most of the time while they sleep. Snoring is the sound of a breathing pattern that is so vigorous that it would be better suited to the high metabolic rate of physical exercise. It could then be said that snoring is the sound of hyperventilation during sleep as it is breathing in a manner that is far in excess of the body's needs.

What Has Hyperventilation got to do with Sleep Apnoea?
Obstructive sleep apnoea has is associated with snoring, inflammation and narrowing of the upper airways (behind the nose and mouth). This narrowing causes the person to breathe with more effort, moving the air faster within the airways. Because the supporting muscles around the narrowed airways are very relaxed during sleep, the airway gets sucked closed by the negative pressure caused by this extra air speed (Bernoulli effect).

The other part of the problem is that the snoring can cause an excessive loss of carbon dioxide, which is as detrimental to health as not having enough oxygen. Professor Buteyko believed that part of the reason for the apnoeas is to provide a temporary solution to this sudden loss. If the carbon dioxide pressure continued to drop, cell damage or death would occur due to respiratory alkalosis. And so the apnoeas are considered to be the strongest indicator that breathing is extremely dysfunctional.

In healthy people, maintaining a constant pressure of carbon dioxide is the prime driving force to breathing, and the brain is able to keep a constant pressure by automatically increasing and decreasing the volume of air breathed to do so.

People with central sleep apnoea do not seem to be able to maintain a constant pressure of carbon dioxide on a breath-by-breath basis. Instead the pressure fluctuates considerably, and this causes a dramatic rise and fall in the volume of air breathed. It is not fully understood why central sleep apnoea occurs, and there are few successful conventional treatments for it. Because there is no airway collapse with central sleep apnoea, using an ordinary CPAP machine does not work. However, adding carbon dioxide to the CPAP does have a positive effect in improving this condition. Perhaps this is why the Buteyko method is so effective with this poorly understood condition.

Learn more about the Buteyko method and how it can help you at a free seminar. There are Buteyko teachers around the world, giving you a natural option to treating complicated health problems.