Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts. This condition can be very serious if left untreated. In addition to seeking traditional treatments, many people are able to find relief through alternative means or changes to their lifestyle and habits. The following are some of the best natural sleep apnea treatments.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
One of the main risk factors for sleep apnea is being overweight. In fact, the American Sleep Apnea Association reports that about 70 percent of people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or obese. Having excess fat deposits around the upper airway can obstruct breathing and make sleep apnea more likely to occur. If you have this disorder, talk to your doctor about exercising more and eating a healthier diet in order to lose excess weight. Even a small reduction in weight can help relieve the constriction of the throat, and in some cases, weight loss can cure sleep apnea.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, smokers are three times more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea than people who have never smoked. This may be because smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. If you stop smoking, your sleep apnea may improve or even go away.
[Related – 10 Natural Ways To Quit Smoking]
Try Positional Therapy
When you sleep on your back, your tongue and soft palate come to rest on the back of your throat. This can block your airway and aggravate your sleep apnea. To prevent this, sleep on your side or your stomach instead. You can also try propping your head up with a pillow so that your head is elevated about 4 to 6 inches above the bed. This is called positional therapy and it’s considered to be effective for most cases of mild sleep apnea.
If you’re prone to rolling on to your back in your sleep, sew something into the back of your pajama top that will prevent you from comfortably sleeping in this position, such as a sock with a tennis ball in it. Foam wedges are often used to elevate the head from the waist up. There are also some companies which sell special products designed to help with positional therapy.
Avoid Alcohol And Certain Medications
When you drink alcohol or take certain medications before going to bed, they relax the muscles in your throat, which causes or worsens sleep apnea since it interferes with your breathing. If you do drink alcohol, do so very moderately and make sure you stop at least a few hours before going to bed. For medications, the ones you should be most wary of are tranquilizers, sedatives and sleeping pills.
Maintain A Regular Sleep Schedule
You may be able to alleviate your sleep apnea by creating and sticking to a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day. This will help you naturally relax at bedtime and sleep better. In addition, make it a priority to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night since plenty of sleep can reduce the number of sleep apnea episodes you have.
[Related – 6 Tips To Sleeping Better At Night]
Do Throat Exercises
Several studies have found that exercising your throat muscles can help strengthen the muscles in your airway and may reduce the severity of sleep apnea. The following are some throat exercises sleep apnea sufferers can try in order to help relieve their sleep apnea:
- Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and hold.
- Press your tongue to the floor of your mouth while brushing your top and side teeth.
- Purse your lips out and move them upwards to the right and left.
- Put one finger in the side of your mouth against your cheek, then try to pull your cheek muscle in at the same time.
- Put an empty balloon in your mouth. Take a deep breath in through your nose then blow out through your mouth, seeing how much you can inflate the balloon.
Open Up Your Nasal Passages
Nasal congestion – which makes breathing while sleeping more difficult – can often be relieved with a simple over-the-counter saline spray. It’s especially important to relieve nasal congestion if you have allergies or an anatomical problem that makes you prone to this type of breathing difficulty. In addition, consult a doctor before using nasal decongestants or antihistamines for this purpose since most are intended only for short-term use.
Though the methods described above may be effective in treating sleep apnea, anyone who has (or suspects that they may have) this condition should also see a doctor. It’s important to consider traditional treatments as well as recommended by your doctor, especially in cases of moderate to severe sleep apnea.