You regularly sleep the recommended 7-9 hours a night. From looking at the clock, it would appear you have slept enough and likely got plenty of deep sleep cycles in.
However, your body is saying otherwise.
You still feel tired. You drag your feet throughout your day. It is hard to concentrate. Generally, you feel sluggish and slightly unmotivated. It can dampen your mood and your day.
Have you checked your SpO2 levels lately? To the average person, the first question that likely comes to mind is what do you mean by SpO2 level?
Let us explain.
What is SpO2 level?
Your SpO2 level is the percentage of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin in the blood in your arteries.
Hemoglobin is the protein, iron-containing molecule in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. In the lungs, oxygen binds to the iron and gives the blood that bright red color. Oxygen is, then, delivered to various parts of the body.
Oxygen provides our body with energy. Without it, humans would cease to exist. Oxygen is necessary for the production of ATP, which is a molecule that provides energy to a cell. Thus, we are able to move, talk, walk, and generally, go about our day as we please.
How are SpO2 Levels Measured?
A pulse oximeter is the main tool used to measure SpO2 levels. It is a non-invasive and quick health tracker method to check in on your SpO2 levels and your heart rate.
It does so by determining the amount of red light versus infrared light that is absorbed by your blood. Oxygenated saturated blood absorbs more infrared light, while deoxygenated blood absorbs more red light. The device then determines a reading based off of these measurements.
Many other health trackers that measure general fitness and health parameters, such as heart rate, pulse rate, sleep statistics, and daily steps, take into account your SpO2 levels as well. For example, certain Fitbit activity and health tracker watches have sensors that reportedly measure your SpO2 levels. However, many articles state that the best measurement comes from instruments, such as a pulse oximeter that attaches to your finger, toe, or ear.
SpO2 Levels and Your Health
Your SpO2 level is an important health tracker. It can indicate if there is a problem with your oxygen intake which could mean issues with the lungs, the red blood cells, cardiac system, or point toward a possible underlying condition.
Normal and healthy SpO2 readings measure at 94-99%. Any value under 90% is considered low and may result in hypoxemia, a low blood oxygen concentration. Symptoms of low SpO2 levels include:
- Coughing, wheezing and/or shortness of breath
- High heart rate
- Blue or red skin color changes
With a low oxygen concentration in your blood, you may feel more tired and have less energy. A low SpO2 reading may be due to any of the following conditions:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD
- Congenital heart defects
- Smoking habits
- Lung cancer
- A collapsed lung or damage to one or both of the lungs
- A blood clot in an artery in one of the lungs
- Sleep apnea
A low SpO2 reading may also appear at high altitudes due to the lack of oxygen in the air.
Sleep Apnea and SpO2 Levels
Sleep apnea, in particular, is one condition that often goes undiagnosed and can be the cause of a low SpO2 reading. The American Sleep Apnea Association reports that 80% of moderate to severe cases go undiagnosed.
Sleep apnea when a person has periods of shallow or no breathing during their sleep. The person may stop breathing for a few seconds to a few minutes and is often accompanied by severe snoring.
Sleep apnea has many detrimental effects including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks or heart failure
- Irregular or dysfunctional heartbeats
- Fatigue from lack of restful sleep
- Memory formation disruption
In the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a 2011 study explored the relationship between sleep apnea at neurocognitive functioning. Those with sleep apnea had obvious impairments in cognitive processes, mood, and sleep. The researchers noted a reduced amount of gray matter in the left hippocampus, left posterior parietal cortex, and right superior frontal gyrus of the brain in the sleep apnea participants when compared to the healthy control group.
After a 3-month treatment program for sleep apnea, the experimental group had vast improvements in executive functioning, attention, and memory. The study stressed that early treatment for sleep apnea patients was important to see these changes this early. The study, also, demonstrates the disruption this condition can have on your day-to-day functioning.
Using a health tracker instrument or device to measure your SpO2 levels is considered a great way to track a sleep apnea condition. When undergoing treatment, SpO2 level and health tracker can aid in determining if certain methods and interventions are working or not.
How to Improve Your SpO2 Levels
Depending on the condition that is hindering your SpO2 levels, the ways to improve them may vary. For some conditions such as anemia or asthma, simple daily or activity-dependent medication may be prescribed. For sleep apnea, a mask, a dental device, a change in sleep position, or a change in habits may be recommended by your physician.
Other ways to improve your SpO2 levels include:
- Take in some fresh air: Fresh air is better for you than ventilated air indoors or in polluted environments. With fresh air, carbon monoxide and fluoride do not impact the amount of oxygen that the body can take in.
- Practice proper breathing. Avoid shallow breathing. Practicing deep inhalation and exhalation techniques can help keep the breathing muscles strong. As we age, shallow breathing becomes more common due to weaker muscles. This causes a decreased blood oxygen concentration. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, can aid in proper breathing control and practices, which in turn, increases the blood oxygen level.
- Hydrate. The Lung Institute boast about how proper hydration can increase your blood oxygen level by allowing the blood to move easier and faster throughout the body. Dehydration hinders many functions, so it’s not surprising that for proper cardiovascular functioning, it is necessary.
- Steer clear of alcohol and drugs: The oxidative process to remove these toxins from the body can drastically reduce your blood oxygen levels. Alcohol can cause blood flow to slow down and causes red blood cells to carry less oxygen. Reducing drugs and alcohol can also improve your overall health and wellbeing.
- Eat iron-rich foods. Some people have an iron deficiency causing them to feel tired all the time due to lack of oxygen. Oxygen binds to the iron part of hemoglobin. With more iron, there are fewer areas for the oxygen to bind to. Although there is a limit to how much this method will work, for some, especially certain anemic conditions or for someone with an iron deficiency, it can dramatically impact their blood oxygen levels.
- Sit up straight. A proper posture increases your air intake into your lungs. Thus, it increases your SpO2 levels.
- Exercise. When you exercise, your muscles require more energy. They, then, need more oxygen. Your respiratory rate increases, which maximizes your respiratory and cardiac systems. This allows you to reach an optimal blood oxygen concentration.
- Use a health tracker to measure your SpO2 levels. This will help you determine if certain methods or in the case of certain conditions, treatments are working.
Overall, living an active and healthy lifestyle can also contribute to optimal SpO2 levels and ensure you are functioning your best.
Measuring your SpO2 levels can be a clear indicator of why you may feel tired and sluggish more often than not. Being tired all the time can lead to other negative health factors and deteriorate your quality of life. Get your SpO2 levels checked out. Take back control of your life and let the data determine how you can live your best life.