How long can you hold your breath under water? If you haven’t been trained to hold your breath while diving or swimming under water you will probably only last a minute or two before surfacing. Some trained divers can hold their breath for periods up to 9 minutes. So what does this have to do with sleep apnea? The term mammalian diving reflex shows that when you are under water you ability to hold on to oxygen is greater than when you are sleeping.
What is mammalian diving reflex?
According to Wikipedia “The mammalian diving reflex optimizes respiration which allows mammals to stay underwater for a long time. It is exhibited strongly in aquatic mammals, but exists in a weaker version in other mammals, including humans. Diving birds, such as penguins, have a similar diving reflex. Every animal's diving reflex is triggered specifically by cold water contacting the face – water that is warmer than 21 °C (70 °F) does not cause the reflex, and neither does submersion of body parts other than the face. Also, the reflex is always exhibited more dramatically, and thus can grant longer survival, in young individuals.”
Some sleep apnea patients may activate a protective mechanism that preserves and regulates blood flow to the brain and the heart vessels. For more information on this subject go to http://focus.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/3/4/557
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