5 ways to manage sleep apnea
This is a sleep disorder that is commonly associated with loud snoring due to short periods of interrupted breathing during sleep. These periods of interrupted breathing mean that the brain, and the rest of the body fail to get sufficient oxygen, which is a huge health hazard.
There are two types of the disorder:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea– This is the common type and is caused by blockage of the airways, usually occurring when soft tissue at the base of the throat collapse while asleep
Central Sleep Apnea– This occurs when the brain (Central Nervous System) fails to send accurate signals to the muscles in the respiratory system, usually due to certain instability in the RCC. (Respiratory control centre)
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age. However, there are certain factors that put you at a higher risk of developing the disorder such as:
- Gender. Men have higher chances of developing the disorder than women.
- Weight. Being overweight (based on BMI) increases the risk of having sleep apnea
- Family history. A family history of sleep apnea increases the likelihood of developing it.
- Age. People over the age of 45 have a higher risk than the youth.
- Nasal obstruction. These include allergies, sinus problems or a deviated septum.
- Neck size. A larger neck size (over 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women) is a great risk factor due to the fat deposits that accumulate around the neck muscles.
Common signs of sleep Apnea include loud periodic or consistent snoring, interrupted sleep and general tiredness and irritability in the morning.
Sleep Apnea can cause of health complications due to the strain on the respiratory system and the decrease in sleep quality which leaves you feeling tired in the morning. This general tiredness could be responsible for sleep deprivation which reduces performance in daily activities which leads to motor vehicle crashes, poor performance at work or academic under achievement. When left untreated, the condition can:
- Aggravate certain mental health issues like depression and worsening of ADHD.
- Lead to lower immunity function
- Increase risk of developing heart conditions such as heart attacks or irregular heartbeats.
- Contribute to short and long term memory loss
- Lead to a stroke
Well known treatments include medication, surgery or use of breathing devices. However home care and certain lifestyle changes can greatly improve the overall quality of sleep which in turn increases quality of life with the condition such as:
- Work towards a healthy weigh
One of the factors that increases chances of getting sleep apnea is being overweight. Upper body obesity increases airway obstruction and narrowing of nasal passages which causes interruptions in breathing for significant lengths of time while asleep. For people who suffer from obesity, weight reduction can remove the need for long term Central Sleep Apnea (CPAP) therapy as well as upper airway surgery.
Where weight loss has been instrumental in eliminating sleep apnea, it is entirely possible for the condition to re-appear if the weight comes back on. This implies that weight loss is not a temporary solution but a lifestyle decision.
Regular healthy exercise can strengthen the heart muscles, increase levels of energy in the body and greatly ameliorate sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea is linked to decreased oxygenated blood levels, yoga would be greatly useful in improving oxygen levels in the body through its breathing exercises. This also reduces sleep interruptions. Yoga also encourages oxygen flow while increasing your respiratory strength.
- Sleeping position
A study in 2006 found that over 60 percent of cases of Obstructive Sleep apnea are improvable by altering sleeping position. It is common knowledge that sleeping in the supine position, which is on your back, causes snoring. This means that this sleeping position actually worsens sleep apnea.
For adults, above the age of 20, sleeping on the side would go a long way in helping breathing revert to normal, while children who have sleep apnea have been found get better sleep on their back. An additional in this case would be getting an overall more comfortable mattress such as a purple mattress which should reduce tossing and turning at night and make it easier to maintain the recommended sleep position throughout the night while minimizing sleep interruption.
- Get a humidifier
These are devices that regulate the humidity in a given room by either reducing or adding moisture to the air. This would be important because dry air irritates the body and the respiratory system. Moist air should lead to more open airways, decreased respiratory congestion and encourage overall clearer breathing
To get the most out of your humidifier, adding essential oils such as; lavender, eucalyptus oil and peppermint would be greatly advisable for their soothing and anti-inflammatory benefits. It is also important to regularly clean your humidifier, following the manufacturer’s instructions since they can harbour moulds and bacteria
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
These general lifestyle changes can greatly improve your health while encouraging better sleeping habits. Tobacco use is known to be harmful to your respiratory system which is a primary cause of sleep apnea while alcohol relaxes the respiratory muscles that are responsible for controlling your breathing. Both of these cause inflammation in the airways which blocks airflow leading to snoring and an interrupted sleep cycle.
Alcohol can relax the throat muscles that control your breathing. This can lead to snoring and an interrupted sleep cycle. It can also leads inflammation in your airways which blocks your airflow. It has been discovered that people with sleep apnea have a greater disposition to smoking, so perhaps treating sleep apnea may be the step you needed to finally kick the habit.
Sleep apnea is fairly common and often undiagnosed. In the case of consistent snoring and interrupted sleep, these home remedies could prove to be extremely helpful. However, if the condition persists, it would be advisable to visit a licenced medical practitioner to discuss the way forward.