Sleep Apnea is a relatively common disorder where the sufferer has one or more pauses in breathing, or weak breaths, when they are asleep. Because symptoms occur when you aren’t conscious and there are no blood tests that can detect it, sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. This is a concern to many professionals, as there can be serious long term effects including risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and obesity. Even poor sleeping habits (less than 6 hours per night) raises lifetime heart attack rate by 50%.
Unfortunately, Sleep apnea is a condition that has no known direct cure. Surgery to widen the throat pathway is not guaranteed to work, while breathing assisting equipment, such as CPAP machines, can be very intrusive and expensive. That being said, there are several things you can do, as well as specific lifestyle changes, that will help mitigate the effects of sleep apnea. It is a chronic condition, so this these suggestions will require long-term management.
Try to eliminate technology in bed
The blue light emitted from screens, like laptops, phones, and TVs, stops your brain from producing melatonin, which is the hormone that is released to help you regulate your sleep. Roughly 90% of young people aged 18-29 sleep with their cell phones next to them, so this is an issue that is alarmingly common.
Give your vocal chords a workout! Singing has been proven to increase muscle control in the throat and soft palate. As a result, this will help to reduce snoring and sleep apnea that is often caused by lax muscles.
Avoid Alcohol and other sedative drugs
Try to eliminate drinking as much as possible, particularly at night, as they tend to relax the muscles in the throat and thus interfere with breathing. This goes for sleeping pills and sedatives as well.
Reduce smoking habits
Smoking is widely believed to further promote sleep apnea, since it is known to increase inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway.
The Tennis Ball trick
This can be handy for people who have trouble staying on their sides while they sleep, which worsens sleep apnea and snoring. Simply sew a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of your sleeping wear, or wedge a pillow stuffed with multiple tennis balls behind your back.
Give your mouth a workout
For example, try chewing gum or holding a pen or pencil between your teeth for roughly 10 minutes until your jaws start aching. This will help strengthen the muscles that keep your mouth closed.
Though sleep apnea only occurs while you are awake, symptoms do occur while you are awake that might indicate sleep apnea. This includes nauseous feeling or sore throat in the morning, urinating often during the night, and just generally having trouble sleeping. You can also ask your significant other to watch your sleeping habits as well. If you or someone notices any of these symptoms on an on-going basis, you should contact you doctor to set up a sleep study. From there, you will be able to better treat your symptoms and start living a healthier life in the long-term!