Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects your breathing when you are sleeping. The person who suffers from it experiences “artificial breathing” or stops inhaling area during brief pauses at night. The interruptions can last up to 20 seconds. Learn more about this condition and how to treat sleep apnea in this article.
Sleep Apnea: Characteristics
Sleep apnea prevents you from sleeping well. This is the first thing you have to know about apnea, because it interferes with your natural sleep rhythm. The person will probably sleep lightly or never fall into a deep sleep. As a result, they will not get enough rest or what their body needs to restore itself after the workday.
There are many negative aspects about apnea and having a “bad night”, such as low energy levels, less productivity, a reduction of daytime mental alertness, slow reflexes, etc. It cannot be treated like drowsiness or insomnia. If nothing is done for this, it can lead to more serious problems like heart disease to obesity to hypertension or diabetes. If you treat sleep apnea properly, the symptoms can be managed and you can greatly improve your sleeping patterns.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Pauses in respiration
- Loud snoring
- Drowsiness during the day
- Restless sleep
- The feeling of a lack of air when you wake up
- Inability to concentrate
- Mood swings
- Unusual sleeping positions
- Tendency to breath through your mouth
- Excessive sweating at night
- Low work, professional, academic, etc. performance
The causes of sleep apnea can be many, but are basically divided into:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: produces a narrowing in the respiratory passages when you inhale due to an imbalance in throat muscles. This leads to brief pauses when inhaling, which reduces the oxygen that gets to the blood. When this happens, the person will wake up instantly because the brain will detect that you are unable to breath, urging the body to wake up in order to open the respiratory passages. Sometimes the person doesn’t even wake up because the mechanism goes back to functioning with no problem. It is possible for this episode to happen a few times a night and cause fatigue or a choking feeling.
- Central sleep apnea: it is less frequent but should still be mentioned. This happens when the brain does not communicate properly with the muscles that are responsible for breathing. In this case, the person will also have problems getting to sleep or if they do, it is very light. The people that tend to suffer from this kind of apnea are patients with cardiac problems and often wake up in the middle of the night.
- Complex sleep apnea: this is caused by an obstruction in the respiratory passages because of different factors or failures in the function of muscles that intervene. Some of the causes can be smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol in excess, the obstruction in the nasal passage, or family history.
Natural Treatments to Reduce Sleep Apnea
These tips may help you treat the problem you have at night so that your respiratory system is in proper condition and you avoid apnea:
- Lose a few pounds or just enough to help you. This will relieve throat constriction. Just get your healthy weight back by having a proper and balanced diet.
- Exercise: 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, like take a light walk, can help relieve obstructive sleep apnea.
- Avoid certain medications and drinking a lot of alcohol: tranquilizers, sleeping pills, or antihistamines are dangerous in these cases. So is drinking alcoholic beverages because they relax the rear muscles of the throat, which interferes with respiration.
- Sleep on your side of face down: don’t sleep face up because it can cause your tongue or the soft palate to rest on the throat and block the respiratory passages. Some people say that you can sew a tennis ball or something to the back of your pajamas to prevent turning over at night.
- Keep your nostrils open all night: use a saline nasal spray or bands that are specifically designed for that. The idea is for your nose to always be “available” to get air. Don’t use decongestants or antihistamines.
- Avoid consuming caffeine or very heavy dinners: caffeine interferes with the normal sleep rhythm, as well as huge meals. Always let at least two hours go by after dinner before you go to bed.
- Respect your sleep hours: try to always go to bed and wake up at the same time so that your body gets accustomed to this. As a result, you will be “programmed” to get enough sleep every night, which will also help reduce apnea episodes and reduce fatigue.
- Practice yoga: this exercise involves more conscious breathing and also helps widen your nostrils and respiratory passages. With regular practice, you can control your breathing and insure proper passage of air inside as well as outside of the body.
- Consume garlic: it will help relieve enlargement of the amygdala or inflammation of the respiratory system. Make a garlic paste and consume this before bed or add more garlic to your meals.
Images courtesy of Cosmetic Dentist Torrance, sman_13, Subhra Patrim Das and Marta Moraschi.