There is nothing in the world that compares to a full night’s sleep. But if you find yourself snoring, gasping loudly or choking in your sleep, or feel the need to visit the washroom one too many times, you are probably suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that four out of every ten adults suffer from and it is likely to go undiagnosed.
In medical terms, obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the airway collapses intermittently, causing breathing obstruction during sleep. Breathing difficulties and constant awakenings makes sleep elusive and results in daytime drowsiness and mood swings. Sleep apnea also impacts the immune system negatively, making patients susceptible to illnesses.
Over time, sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular conditions. People with sleep apnea may suffer from high blood pressure, hypertension and ultimately lead up to a stroke. When experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms over a period of time, a diagnosis and subsequent treatment is highly recommended.
Depending upon the severity of the sleep disorder you are experiencing, your doctor may recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, a smaller dental or nasal device or may just ask you make certain lifestyle changes, that can well remedy your sleep apnea.
Many sleep apnea patients have been surprised by how much change they have experienced within a week just by choosing to address the issue. For instance, if the sleep apnea is mild, the following lifestyle habits can enhance energy levels and address the sleep apnea issue.
Watch the weight
Sleep apnea has a direct co-relation with obesity. Thus making a conscious effort to lose the weight can help with sleep apnea. Just by dropping a few stones, can bring down your sleeplessnessby a good 40 to 50%.
Sleeping on the side
Did you know that a simple sleeping position can help improve your sleep apnea condition! If you have a mild form of sleep apnea, all you need to do is sleep on your side. If you have a tendency to roll onto your back, consider using a body pillow to prop yourself up.
Opt for a healthy diet
Sleep apnea can also be controlled through a change in your diet. Keep away from processed sugar in your foods and a say a strict no to sugar laden drinks. While they might give you a temporary rush, they wreak havoc with an energy crash soon after. Integrate fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and lean meats in your diet instead and you are bound to notice the change in your energy levels.
Avoid alcohol,sedatives and smoking
When people have trouble sleeping at night, they often opt for alcohol as an easy solution. Contrary to popular belief, it does not help but in effect worsens your sleep apnea. The muscle tone in the upper airway is negatively impacted by alcohol. The palate becomes floppy as a result of alcohol consumption thus enhancing the risk of a collapse. Sedatives too have a similar effect and are thus advised against in cases of sleep apnea.
The same thing applies to smokers. Medical research proves that use of nicotine or even vaping disrupts the sleep-wake-cycle and intensifies the sleep apnea condition. Besides, quitting smoking or vaping makes it easier to perform daily tasks such as climbing up and down the stairs without shortness of breath.
Keep yourself hydrated
If sleep apnea is shortening the duration of your sleep, it is most likely that you wake up feeling parched. This is because when you open your mouth to breathe due to the obstruction in the airway, your body loses fluid. This may lead to you waking with a gagging sensation or coughing violently in the middle of the night. To avoid this, it is a good idea to stay hydrated throughout the day. It is however best not to drink a lot of water right before bedtime to avoid those nightly trips to the washrooms.
Get daily exercise
Exercising may be the last thing on your mind when you are already feeling tired and drowsy. However, a good workout session may actually work wonders for sleep apnea. Research shows that the combination of strength training and aerobic exercise is quite effective in dealing with sleep apnea. With this combo, you may be able to tone the muscles in the upper airway that prevents collapse and reduce fluid accumulation in the neck that helps in normalising breathing. Yoga, especially related to breathing exercises can also help deal with sleep apnea greatly.
Review your treatment plan
If you are already being treated for sleep apnea with CPAP, you may want to review your program. For instance, you may not be using the right kind of device or mask and may ask your doctor to suggest an alternative. Further if you have existing nasal allergies, it may be getting in the way of your sleep apnea treatment. When you have active allergies, the tissues in your upper throat swell. This makes the airway narrower and breathing harder. To deal with your nasal allergies, the doctor may prescribe a nasal spray or use of a steamer before bed.
Build and follow a good sleep routine
Finally, make a conscious effort to build a sleep routine and follow it diligently. For instance, the first thing to do would be stay away from devices at least an hour before bedtime. Next make a list of things that help you relax and slow down. For instance, you can consider some light stretching, yoga or meditation, listening to music, reading a book or taking a warm bath and changing into fresh PJs. When you follow this routine, you will in effect train your mind and body to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
While all of these methods are tried and tested, do not treat them as an alternative to the treatment as suggested by your doctor. However when practiced in conjunction with the prescribed treatment, it may help control your sleep apnea considerably.