Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Left untreated, it can lead to several health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. The cause of sleep apnea is often unknown, but it can be linked to obesity, smoking, and alcohol use.
To help manage this disorder, you can do a few things to get a better night’s sleep.
1. Go to your doctor and get a sleep study done
The first step you should take if you think you have sleep apnea is to see your doctor. They can order a sleep study to help them diagnose the condition.
A sleep study involves staying overnight in a sleep lab, where a professional will monitor you while you sleep. The study can help your doctor determine how often you stop breathing and how severe your sleep apnea is. Depending on the results, your doctor may recommend a treatment plan.
Some treatments that are commonly used to manage sleep apnea include:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) which uses a mask to deliver air pressure through your nose and mouth while you sleep
- Mouthpieces or dental appliances that are worn during sleep to keep your airway open
- Weight loss if you are overweight or obese
- Surgery from an expert oral surgeon, which is typically only recommended if other treatments haven’t worked
2. Make some lifestyle changes
As mentioned, the causes of sleep apnea may include obesity, smoking, and alcohol use. So, if you are struggling with this disorder, making some lifestyle changes may help.
Obesity is one of the most common risk factors for sleep apnea. If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds can make a difference. Try cutting back on calories and getting regular exercise. You can also talk to your doctor about weight loss surgery if you are severely obese.
If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. Smoking can worsen sleep apnea and make it more challenging to treat because it irritates the airways. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation aids.
Drinking alcohol can also worsen sleep apnea, so it’s best to limit your alcohol intake or avoid it altogether. Drinking in moderation is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.
3. Use a humidifier
A humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can help keep your throat and nasal passages from drying out. Sleep apnea can cause your throat to become dry and irritated, so using a humidifier can help ease these symptoms.
Place the humidifier near your bed to breathe in the moist air while you sleep. You may also use a saline nasal spray to keep your nasal passages moist.
4. Try positional therapy
If you sleep on your back, you may be more likely to experience sleep apnea. Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to collapse and block your airway. To help prevent this, you can try positional therapy.
Positional therapy involves sleeping in a position that keeps your airway open. For example, you may sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs. This can help keep your tongue and soft palate from collapsing and blocking your airway. You can also use a body pillow as support to keep you from rolling onto your back during sleep.
5. Keep a sleep diary
A helpful way to track your sleep apnea symptoms is to keep a sleep diary. In the log, you can record how many hours you sleep, how often you wake up at night, and how rested you feel during the day. This can help you and your doctor identify patterns and track your progress.
6. Stick to a regular sleep schedule
Another way to help manage sleep apnea is to stick to a regular sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Doing so can help regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Creating a relaxing environment in your bedroom can help you sleep better. This means keeping the room dark, quiet, and cool. You may also want to try using a white noise machine to help you sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about sleep medication.
7. Take steps to reduce stress
Finally, stress can worsen sleep apnea and make it more challenging to manage. To help reduce stress, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. You may also want to exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
If you are struggling with sleep apnea, there are many things you can do to help manage the disorder. From lifestyle changes to positional therapy, there are various treatment options available. Talk to your doctor about what might work best for you. With treatment, you can improve your quality of sleep and overall health.