Ad. We all know how important sleep is to our physical and mental health. However, for those who suffer from sleep apnea, it can be a real challenge to make it through the night uninterrupted.
Debilitating and potentially dangerous, sleep apnea is a condition where you cease to breathe at various points in the night for short periods.
It happens when you do not get enough oxygen, causing you to wake up gasping in the middle of the night.
If left untreated, this ailment can have serious consequences for your health. As well as being chronically sleep deprived, you also significantly boost your odds of succumbing to heart failure, diabetes, stroke and AFib (aka atrial fibrillation). This, in turn, can lead to mental health issues like depression.
Given how negative the impact of sleep apnea can be on your physical and mental well-being, it is important to take steps on how you can achieve the 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep we all need.
But how do you do that?
In this article, we will highlight 7 tips and strategies for living with sleep apnea.
Adopt these measures and you should soon be able to enjoy a peaceful, undisturbed slumber. From the time you fall asleep to when your alarm clock goes off the next morning.
1. Create sleep schedule
Creating a sleep schedule will not eradicate your propensity to sleep apnea in itself. However, it will help you to maintain excellent sleep hygiene, which is an important component in developing healthy and regular sleep patterns.
If you can, go to bed and try to wake up around the same time every single day. Also, give yourself the best chance of getting the optimum level of sleep required.
This means not going to bed at midnight if you need to be up at 6 am. As doing this obviously means you can only get a maximum of six hours of sleep.
2. Find a better sleep position
Whether it be on our back, side, front or in the foetal position, we all have our preferred way to fall asleep.
However, if you suffer from sleep apnea, the simple act of changing the position in which you sleep could dramatically improve your chances of sleeping uninterrupted through the night.
Experts generally agree that sleeping with as straight a back as possible is a good way to minimise the loudness of your snoring and the severity of sleep apnea.
Doing this could also maintain the correct alignment of your spine. Albeit while potentially putting extra strain on it as well as your hips and shoulders.
Sleeping on your stomach may also significantly lower the effects of sleep apnea as it shifts the gravity more to the side of your body.
Whichever position you try to reduce the effects of sleep apnea with, you may need to negotiate some trial and error before you finally decide on the best and most effective one for you.
3. Use a CPAP machine
For most sufferers, the treatment that seems to work best to counter sleep apnea is a CPAP mask.
Worn throughout the night, this mask enables a greater amount of oxygen to pass through your airways. Therefore, preventing your throat from collapsing whilst you sleep.
It does this by diverting air pressure deeper inside your throat. Which in turn holds it open for long after the muscles within them have relaxed.
In order for a CPAP treatment to be successful, it is important to find the right machine (like this one here) and mask.
Before investing in one though, it is worth talking to a sleep expert or your health care provider for professional advice based on your circumstances.
4. Put on a humidifier
Another way that works to curb sleep apnea for some people is a humidifier.
This is especially useful for those who suffer from symptoms like a dry mouth, blocked nose or sore throat. Which are sometimes linked to the condition in general.
Some people have an in-built humidifier within their CPAP devices, while others benefit from having both going at the same time.
If you do use a humidifier, use clean water daily and be sure to replace or wash its various parts on a regular basis.
5. Find the right pillow for you
When it comes to countering sleep apnea, many people find that their choice of pillow can play a big part in reducing symptoms.
Pillows come in several different styles, sizes, firmness, degrees of loft and pressure. All of which can affect the quality of your sleep.
Although there is not a single brand that has been uniformly proven to eradicate sleep apnea, there is no doubt that some can be of significant benefit depending on the position you sleep in.
Those who sleep on their side for instance should try pillows that are thicker. As they align with your neck, they are particularly good because they remove a lot of strain from your shoulders.
Similarly, those who sleep on their back or stomachs should give a thinner pillow a go, as this will better retain the natural alignment of your spine.
If you find your CPAP is constantly dislodged while you sleep, you should think about using a CPAP pillow. These are specifically created to sleep on whilst wearing a mask. They also have areas that are indented – thus allowing space for the apparatus to fit.
As well as finding the right pillow, it is worth doing the same for a mattress. Typically, sleep apnea sufferers who are back sleepers respond better to firm mattresses. Lighter sleepers, by contrast, may require a softer mattress to alleviate their symptoms.
6. Consider a dental appliance
If your sleep apnea symptoms are only relatively mild, you might consider oral appliance therapy.
Taking the form of a custom-made mouthguard, it is seen by many as a terrific alternative to CPAP. The piece works by lowering the jaw into a slightly more forward position.
This, in turn, tightens the muscles and soft tissues that reside towards the rear of your throat, which eliminates the chances of obstruction whilst you sleep.
These types of dental devices do need to be specially fitted. Although you might want to talk to your dentist about this option of sleep disorder treatment.
7. Make diet and lifestyle changes
One of the most important things you can do to tackle the condition of sleep apnea is to make significant changes to your lifestyle and diet.
Trying to maintain a healthy body weight is an ideal start when tackling this condition. The severity of this sleep disorder’s symptoms has been proven to drastically reduce through weight loss.
Be sure to eat a nutritious, healthy and well-balanced diet of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean fish and meat. Cut out the soft drink, sugary treats and calorie-laden fast foods as well.
Similarly, you should quit smoking and reduce your intake of alcohol. Both of which are known to induce louder snoring and worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Lastly, make sure you partake in regular exercise. There are clear benefits to your waistline, heart, mental health and sleep patterns if you engage in moderate to challenging aerobic exercise like walking, running, yoga, strength training and biking.
Try and do one of these activities for at least 30 minutes around three or four times a week.
So there it is! Our 7 tips and strategies for living with sleep apnea.
Hopefully, these tips will assist you to sleep through the night much easier than you have been without suffering from any disruption.
If your symptoms do persist, however, then it is definitely worth talking to your health provider.