Shaquille O’Neal recently let the world know he has sleep apnea. He shared his experience of testing and treating it with the world on You Tube. A month later he is announcing his retirement from professional sports. Is it possible that the long term effects of sleep apnea have caused him to feel he has come to the end of his career sooner than he could have? Did his poor sleep from traveling and changing time zones add to the problems he was already having?
Sleep is important to everyone but for an athlete it is an essential part of training. Getting slow wave sleep is where the body releases its growth hormone and heals itself. This deep sleep occurs during the first third of the night. If, like Shaq, you stop breathing 20-39 times an hour it becomes impossible for the body to reach this portion of sleep. Add to the inability the stress of his oxygen dropping throughout the night so he is unable to give enough oxygen to his muscles and you do not get fed. Finally add the stress all this lack of sleep on the body as a whole will keep his body from healing properly.
Shaq also lived a life that kept him from having good sleep hygiene. Traveling and the constant change of time would cause issues with his ability to go to sleep and wake up. The body works best when it has a routine and with constant changes not only of time but also the light that stimulates the brain to help regulate the body rhythm can make the brains ability to shut down difficult.
If Shaq had actually treated his sleep apnea earlier it might have helped improve his health significantly. As this stress works on the body it contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and current research has even linked it to certain types of cancer. The body needs rest to recover and it needs rest to reboot our brain and help with our short term memory. When we do not get this solid rest we pay a price with out health. Although Shaq has played professional ball for 19 years he may have been able to go that 20th season if he had just rested a little better.
What lessons can we learn from this in our own lives? We should listen to our bodies. Snoring and fatigue are not normal. They are signs that should be listened to and discussed with your doctor. If you live alone and do not know if you snore but have other health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes that are not improving even on medication you might want to ask your doctor about sleep apnea. You might also think that sleep apnea is just for those who are overweight, this is not the case. You can be any size or shape and have sleep apnea. It is more about how your airway is built then how much fat you carry on your body.
Overall sleep is important to your health and if you get a good night sleep each night you will find that your health and your energy levels should improve.