Low iron in your blood generally refers to iron deficiency anemia. Iron is an important component of your blood and contributes to the protein, or hemoglobin, present in the blood. This iron is responsible for proper oxygen supply achieved by the circulating blood.
Consequences of Low Iron
Low iron in your blood essentially means that your body parts and cells have poor oxygen supply. This can lead to improper functioning of your cells, inadequate removal of waste from your cells and inadequate repair and rejuvenation of cells.
Importance of Oxygen to the Brain
Oxygen is very important for you brain to function in an optimal manner. Brain cells are sensitive to even small durations of oxygen deprivation, and five minutes is the maximum time that these cells can survive without oxygen. Your brain reacts to extreme lack of oxygen by causing convulsions, coma and even death. If oxygen deprivation is milder, chronic and spread over a long period time, as in anemia, you may experience symptoms such as attention disorders, loss of memory, poor judgment and reduced coordination between your brain and other body parts.
Sleep Apnea and Muscle Tone
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the patient takes several short pauses in breathing during sleep. A variety of factors can cause sleep apnea, but primarily it is because of a collapse of your airway tract. The tract has respiratory and pharyngeal muscles, and its collapse comes about due to reduced tone of these muscles. People suffer from apnea mostly during REM sleep because of physiological changes in the body during this phase of sleep. During REM sleep, the resistance of upper airway tract muscles increases, simultaneously reducing your ability to breathe in air. This leads to snoring sounds and breathing pauses. Repeated pauses translate to repeated bouts of oxygen deprivation, which affects the brain. Your brain reacts to this oxygen deprivation by reducing the coordination between brain and respiratory muscles, and your brain cannot stimulate normal breathing.
Relation Between Low Iron and Sleep Apnea
Low iron in blood aggravates sleep apnea and may even cause it. A person with low blood iron and anemia experiences reduced coordination of brain and respiratory muscles and reduced muscle tone of pharyngeal and respiratory muscles. This leads to sleep apnea and aggravates the problem if the person was already suffering from low iron prior to developing anemia.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; NINDS Cerebral Hypoxia Information Page; October 2010
- Clinical Neurophysiology; Upper Airway Muscles and Physiopathology of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome; C. Gaultier; 1994
- Neurochemical Research; Iron-Deficiency Anemia is Associated with Altered Characteristics of Sleep Spindles in NREM Sleep in Infancy; Patricio Peirano, et al.; May 2005