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Sleep is a dynamic process that our brain and body needs for physical restoration and proper mental processing. According to Fadia (2002), the amount of sleep that is necessary depends on a number of factors (age, weight, etc.) Infants require about 16 hours of sleep while teenagers require around 9. For most adults, about 7 or 8 hours of sleep tends to be the average. However, there are some adults that require as less as 5 hours a night and as much as 10 hours of sleep per night. In addition the amount of sleep a person needs will also increase if that person has been deprived of sleep or experiencing sleep deprivation. This causes sleep debt. This means that when a person is deprived of sleep that sleep must then be made up (2002).

Many people are able to notice the difference between a good night sleep and waking up feeling sleep deprived. However, those who have constantly had to deal with sleep deprivation developed a conditioning that overtime became normalized. They were unable to determine that sleep deprivation had caused and continues to cause impairments in their judgment, reaction time and/or in their overall functioning. They simply have come to believe that this is the way it is for them. This process has been noted in larger heavier individuals that have been heavy most of their lives. Thus, this article will focus on sleep disorders and gay men in the bear community in order to increase awareness regarding the health risks posed by sleep disorders in the GLBTQ community.

Sleep Apnea: A Common Sleep Disorder Affecting the Bear Community

What is Sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that causes severe sleep deprivation by interrupting sleep and collapsing the windpipe. This occurs because of a build up of extra tissue in the neck area from weight gain. Men tend to gain weight in their neck and have thicker, heavier necks. When we fall asleep our muscles relax throughout our body. When our throat muscles relax the weight of the neck, along with attempting to inhale causes the windpipe to collapse and become blocked. When this occurs the individual must wake up to regain his muscle tone in order to open the windpipe and breathe. This occurs for just about three seconds before returning to sleep and usually the individual is unaware of waking. However, some individuals may have awareness that their sleep is very restless. They may even wake up coughing from a dry throat. The number one sign that one may have sleep apnea is snoring. Everyone that has sleep apnea snores. However, everyone that snores may not have sleep apnea. Additionally, if one’s neck is greater than 17 inches then there is a greater risk of having or developing sleep apnea.

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