You’ve been told about the dangers of heart problems, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. But no one ever warned you that sleeping could be hazardous to your health!
Yes, if you joined the 18 million other Americans who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, falling asleep may cause you to have short episodes where you stop breathing.
These periods, called apneas, happen because you’re not taking in enough oxygen. You struggle to breathe, gasp, and wake yourself up. Yet, millions of people don’t realize their problem is as bad as it is because those apneas sound like loud snoring — annoying but innocent, right? Well, not quite.
Sleep apnea is often linked to chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, depression, high blood pressure, and many other diseases. It doesn’t just disrupt your sleep; it causes perilous side effects, which is why your doctor will advise you to take this diagnosis seriously.
While you shouldn’t try to treat sleep apnea alone, there are some home remedies you can add to your medical regimen to reduce the symptoms. Try these natural solutions to improve your sleep and feel better overall.
1. Change Your Sleep Position
With or without sleep apnea, snoring happens the most frequently when you sleep on your back. Snoring is actually a noise caused by the vibration of your tongue and soft palate collapsing against the back of your throat. This position is easy to slip into when you’re supine (on your back).
For those with sleep apnea, this makes a dangerous problem even worse. There are multiple kinds of these disorders, but obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common.
OSA happens when your throat muscles relax, blocking your airway in sleep. The supine position, combined with OSA’s regular behavior, causes more frequent apneas. Sleeping on your side can improve your breathing and reduce apnea severity and frequency.
This position change might be challenging with a traditional CPAP machine. If there’s a reason you can’t wear a CPAP, such as side sleeping or teeth grinding, talk to your doctor before making any treatment plan changes.
2. Ensure You’re at a Healthy Weight
Most of us think about our weight in terms of how we look. The truth is that your weight has a lot to do with your health. If you’re over- or underweight, it can affect your body, causing disorders and diseases.
Sleep apnea is one of the disorders that stem from obesity. When you carry too much weight in your upper body, it increases the pressure on your airways. This obstruction blocks the oxygen when you sleep, resulting in apneas. Because obesity also narrows your nasal passages, you have two things keeping you from breathing normally.
Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight significantly lowers your risk of sleep apnea and, in some cases, can resolve the symptoms altogether.
3. Make Lifestyle Changes
Habits are hard to make and harder to break. But how well you control your sleep apnea symptoms can determine your quality of life, so making some lifestyle changes might be called for.
How much exercise do you get? Working out improves your respiratory system, boosting oxygen flow throughout your body. As your fitness routine increases, so does the strength of your lungs, and you’ll breathe better while you sleep, too.
If a full workout isn’t for you yet, consider yoga. It’s low-impact, low-intensity, but high-benefit. The breathing exercises alone improve your oxygen levels, and the stretches you’ll learn help decrease muscle pain and tone and strengthen your body.
Another habit change is to skip the alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol can be relaxing, but that’s not a good thing with sleep apnea. Your throat muscles are already too relaxed, and when alcohol is in your system, it can be deadly.
Tobacco causes further breathing complications. Your airways become inflamed and swollen, reducing your already limited oxygen intake, and the damage to your lungs makes it difficult to push the oxygenated blood throughout your body.
If you smoke or drink regularly, an oral appliance that stabilizes your tongue and repositions your jaw may help. These keep your airway open while you sleep, decreasing obstruction and boosting the flow of oxygen. You can get these over-the-counter or prescribed by your doctor.
Sleep apnea doesn’t have to alter your life. Listen to your healthcare provider’s advice, change your sleep positions if necessary, and make some healthy lifestyle adjustments. Not only will your sleep apnea symptoms improve, but your overall mental and physical well-being will, too!