How Poor Breathing During Sleep is Affecting Your Physical Performance

By Julie Hamilton, NP – November 8, 2021

Lack of quality sleep is the root of many common health issues I see in my practice daily. It’s not just overworking and not going to bed, poor quality sleep can be the result of a breathing disorder.  

Athletes know that quality sleep is key to peak athletic performance, muscle recovery and energy. Breathing disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea cause poor quality sleep affecting your ability to perform during exercise and post-activity recovery.  

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?  

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a common sleep-related breathing disorder. It occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing blockage of the upper airway. Most people with OSA snore loudly with notable periods of silence when airflow is blocked and choking or gasping when the airway reopens. 

Individuals with untreated OSA may also exhibit fatigue, snoring, leg restlessness, choking or gasping at night, insomnia with frequent awakenings, morning headaches, daytime sleepiness,  vivid dreams, lack of concentration and cognitive deficits. 

Who is at Risk for Developing Obstructive Sleep Apnea?  

OSA most frequently affects older men, however, it is not a strictly adult disorder. As obesity and diabetes mellitus in our pediatric population increase, so does the incidence of OSA. CPAP  therapy is now prescribed to more patients under the age of 18 than ever before. 

  • Middle-Aged and Older Men 
  • Postmenopausal Women 
  • Obesity: There is a strong correlation between higher body mass index and OSA
  • Individuals with Nasal Congestion 
  • Neck Size: Men over 17 inches and Women over 16 inches 
  • Upper Airway Abnormalities: Enlarged Tonsils/Overbite 
  • Individuals with a Family Member with OSA
  • Individuals with Acromegaly or Hypothyroidism 
  • Smokers 

Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea 

OSA is largely undiagnosed and can manifest together with hypertension, chronic anxiety,  atrial fibrillation, depression, heart disease and ADHD – making it difficult to diagnose.  Untreated OSA can influence: 

  • Treatment-Resistant Hypertension 
  • Impaired Concentration 
  • Mood Disorders 
  • Impaired Glucose Tolerance/Increased Insulin Resistance 
  • Increased Risk of Stroke 
  • Increased Risk of Arrhythmia/Atrial Fibrillation 

Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Treatments  

A home sleep test is used to assess for sleep disorders and in certain cases, an in-lab polysomnogram is necessary. All patients must be diagnosed by a certified sleep specialist.  

Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Include: 

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy: provides a steady stream of pressurized air to patients through a mask they wear while sleeping. 
  • Oral Appliance: MAD to physically reposition the jaw forward to expand the airway. 
  •  Surgery: To reduce or remove tissue from the soft palate, tonsils, uvula or adenoids.
  • Positional Therapy: Avoid sleeping on your back or use a positional therapy device. 
  • Behavioral Changes: Weight loss may be advised. 

Just as adequate nutrition and training is essential, quality sleep is critical for your fitness performance and long-term overall health.  

It is important to mention any sleep-related issues to your healthcare provider. For more information visit,


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