Lack of oxygen does bad things to a brain. A lack of quality sleep is almost as bad. Dreaming is a part of quality sleep, but for many years my quality of sleep was being compromised by my obstructive sleep apnea.
When I would try to sleep I would lay down. I would relax. I would drift off to sleep…and then my tongue and soft palate would relax and prevent me from breathing. It’s called obstructive sleep apnea.
My body would react and wake me up just enough to breathe again. I ignored this problem for decades even as it continued to worsen. The result was a constant state of bone-weary fatigue, waking up feeling like I needed a nap, and an inability to focus. I also stopped dreaming.
Finally, my daughter convinced me that I needed to do a sleep study, and I asked my doctor, who then referred me. After the study, I learned that I have severe obstructive apnea (the airway blockage when my muscles relaxed,) central apnea (a failure to breathe automatically,) and hypopnea (underbreathing, or not breathing adequately.) Because of the severity of my problem, I was prescribed the use of a BiPAP machine at night to keep my airway open.
Now, I sleep. Really sleep. And I dream again. Some are odd, quirky dreams…okay almost all dreams are odd and quirky, but it was a surprise to discover what it was like to dream again.
I cannot stress enough how critical it is for a person to ask for a sleep study if they snore, or have been observed to stop breathing while sleeping. People with sleep apnea are; 1) starving their brain of oxygen, and 2) torturing themselves with sleep deprivation that puts them in a state of constant exhaustion. Apneas and hypopneas are an attack on a person’s physical and mental states.
Sleep is vital to our ability to effectively function when we are awake. Dreaming is vital to effective sleep.