You’re exhausted. You’ve been trying to get a good night’s sleep for weeks, maybe even months, but it feels like you’ve been trapped in a never-ending cycle of tossing and turning all night. You’re not alone. According to the CDC, approximately 35% of Americans reported short sleep durations, many suffering from some form of sleep disorder. Among those disorders is a condition called sleep apnea. But what is sleep apnea? How does it affect your sleep? What can home remedies do to help you get a better night’s rest?
This guide will answer all those questions and more. We’ll explore what sleep apnea is, the different types, and some common symptoms to look out for. We’ll also provide tips and techniques for getting a good night’s sleep if you suffer from this condition, covering everything from bedroom essentials to better lifestyle habits.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a significant and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. It occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted during sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – This is the more common type of sleep apnea that may affect up to 30% of adult Americans and happen when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, restricting airflow and causing breathing to stop momentarily.
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain fails to signal to the muscles that control breathing. As a result, breathing becomes shallow or slows down for short periods during sleep.
OSA is far more general than CSA, and we will focus on the former in this guide.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
If you think you may be experiencing sleep apnea, you must see a doctor as soon as possible. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed through a physical exam and a medical history assessment. Your doctor will also likely order a polysomnogram, an overnight sleep study that monitors your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, brainwaves and breathing patterns during sleep. Based on the results of these tests, your doctor can determine whether or not you have sleep apnea and recommend treatment options.
Clinical Treatment Options for Serious Cases
The most common form of treatment for people with severe cases of sleep apnea, including CSA, is a Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) machine. This device delivers air through a mask that fits your nose while you sleep, and this air pressure keeps your airway open so you can breathe normally throughout the night.
Another more radical approach is surgery. This is necessary for some people with sleep apnea who cannot tolerate using a CPAP machine or who have not had success with other treatment options. Surgery to treat sleep apnea can involve various procedures, such as eliminating the additional tissue from the throat or correcting structural problems in the jaw, nose or soft palate. However, if you have mild OSA, several lifestyle changes and home remedies help you get a good night’s sleep. Let’s explore some of those options now.
Treating Mild Sleep Apnea with Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes
1) Prop Up Your Head
Sleeping flat on your back allows gravity to pull the soft tissues in your throat down, which can block your airway and cause snoring or breathing difficulties. To avoid this, prop up your head with pillows or a wedge-shaped cushion to keep your airway open while you sleep. Adjustable beds are also a great option, as they can be raised or lowered to achieve the perfect position for you.
2) Sleep on Your Side
Sleeping on your side also helps to keep your airway open. This position prevents gravity from pulling down on the soft tissues in your throat, making it less likely for them to block your airway. If you find it challenging to stay on your side, try sleeping with a pillow between your legs. If your mattress is too firm, consider memory foam mattresses that contour to your body, making it easier to maintain this position all night.
3) Practice Nasal Irrigation
Nasal irrigation can be an effective home remedy for sleep apnea. This involves using a saline solution to flush your nasal passages and sinuses, which helps reduce inflammation and mucus buildup, making breathing easier through your nose. You can purchase a nasal irrigator at most drugstores or make your saline solution home.
4) Avoid Alcohol and Smoking
Alcohol and smoking are both significant risk factors for sleep apnea. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, which can block your airway, and smoking irritates the lining of your airway, causing swelling and making it more likely to collapse. If you drink alcohol, avoid drinking close to bedtime.
5) Lose Weight
If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds can help to reduce your risk of sleep apnea. Excess weight can cause the soft tissues in your throat to collapse and block your airway. Losing weight can also help to improve your overall health and quality of life.
6) Exercise Regularly
Exercise can also help to ease your risk of sleep apnea, and this is because exercise helps to strengthen and improve your overall cardiovascular health. In addition, exercise also allows you to lose weight, which can further reduce your risk of sleep apnea, as we just mentioned.
7) Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake and makes it tough to fall asleep at night. If you enjoy caffeinated beverages, do so in moderation and avoid drinking them close to bedtime.
8) Treat Allergies and Sinus Problems
Allergies and sinus problems can contribute to sleep apnea, and this is because they can cause inflammation in your airway, making it more likely to collapse. Treat these conditions with your doctor’s prescribed medication if you have allergies or a sinus infection.
9) Use a Humidifier
Dry air can irritate your airway and make it more likely to collapse. To prevent this, use a humidifier in the bedroom to add moisture to the air, which will help keep your airway lubricated and reduce the risk of collapsing.
If you have a problem getting a good night’s rest, you may suffer from sleep apnea — a severe but treatable sleep disorder characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. If you feel you might have sleep apnea, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible to begin treatment and finally get the restful night’s sleep you deserve. And if you have a mild case, chances are that some home remedies and simple lifestyle changes will be all needed to improve your sleep quality. So don’t suffer in silence — talk to your doctor today and get the treatment you need to enjoy restful, uninterrupted sleep.