Randy Trumbower and his colleagues in Emory’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine recently published a study showing that “daily intermittent hypoxia,” combined with walking exercise, can help patients with incomplete spinal cord injury walk for longer times. What is it about being deprived of oxygen for short periods that has a positive effect?
This research was puzzling at first (at least to your correspondent) because “daily intermittent hypoxia” is a good description of the gasping and snorting interruptions of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a very common condition that increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. On the other side of the coin, many endurance athletes have been harnessing the body’s ability to adapt to low oxygen levels — so-called altitude training — to increase their performance for years.
So we have an apparent clash: hypoxia is bad, except when it’s good. Looking closely, there are some critical differences between sleep apnea and therapeutic hypoxia. The dose makes the poison, right? Read more