22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Amongst this population, nearly 80% of moderate to severe cases go undiagnosed. This means that a lot of people aren’t getting the sleep they need. Not only can this hurt their health, but it can also prevent their loved ones from getting the optimal amount of sleep. Good news: sleep apnea is manageable and can be treated at home. We’ll look at the most effective natural remedies for sleep apnea so that you can get the rest you need.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Regular oxygen flow is crucial to a good night’s sleep. However, sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing for short amounts of time during sleep. Consequently, this sleep disorder may cause you to wake throughout the night. In other cases, you may continue to sleep with this low level of oxygen and only learn there is a problem when somebody tells you.
Sleep apnea can have serious health consequences. People suffering from sleep apnea don’t get quality sleep and often feel it during their waking hours. Over time, you can develop:
- Heart disease, including heart failure
- Reduced immune system function
- Increased memory loss
- Worsened mental health problems
Most often, doctors use medication, surgery, and breathing devices like a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to manage the condition. However, there are also things you can easily do at home to greatly improve your quality of sleep and quality of life.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs. Central Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this condition and is caused by restricted airflow to the lungs due to a collapsed or obstructed upper airway during sleep. Frequently, there is an issue with the soft palate (the soft tissue at the back of your mouth) lifting properly. Central sleep apnea, although rarer, occurs from miscommunications between your brain and respiratory system, resulting in breathing problems.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
For most people with obstructive sleep apnea, excess body weight and built up fat tissue in the windpipes play a significant role in the development of the condition. It’s estimated that nearly three-quarters of all patients with sleep apnea are overweight. However, there are additional risk factors that may contribute to sleep apnea. The following types of people may be at higher risks of developing sleep apnea:
- People with high blood pressure
- Individuals with small airways in their respiratory tract
- African-Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders
- Those with a family history of sleep apnea
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
When you have sleep apnea, your body doesn’t receive enough oxygen. Oftentimes, this is because you can’t keep your airways open at night. Consequently, this can lead to poor sleep quality, resulting in drowsiness and fogginess during the day. Other side effects include:
- Memory issues
- Strong headaches
- Daytime sleepiness
- Poor work or school performance
- Reduced sexual interest
- Edema (swelling of the legs)
- Increased depressive symptoms
This type of daily drowsiness and impaired ability to function increases risks for automobile and other types of accidents. For this reason, people should seek different treatment methods for the condition as soon as possible.
What Are the Natural Remedies for Sleep Apnea?
Now that you understand the causes and symptoms of sleep apnea, we can explore some of the most effective home treatments for sleep apnea. Here are six things you can do on your own:
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you are overweight, this may take some time. However regular exercise can seriously help you improve your condition. As mentioned previously, obesity can be a risk factor for obstructed airways through the buildup of soft tissue in the respiratory tract. These buildups may cause you to suddenly stop breathing, fostering the sleep apnea cycle. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can ensure your airways are clear and reduce these symptoms.
Even modest weight loss can reduce the necessity of surgery or long-term CPAP therapy. For some people, losing weight may even be enough to completely eliminate the condition—though note that regaining weight might bring it back.
You don’t need to change everything immediately. Start by setting achievable goals for diet and exercise. Once you do, you’ll see benefits not only in your sleep apnea but also across your overall health and wellbeing.
2. Change Your Sleep Position
This is something you can try tonight. Small changes in your sleep position can help mitigate symptoms and give you a better night’s sleep. Sleep studies have found that nearly half of all sleep apnea patients sleep in a supine position (e.g. lying flat on their back), which can actually worsen symptoms.
This is partly because lying on your back tilts your head in a way that partially closes your throat. While this would normally not cause any major issues, for those who have sleep apnea, it can result in unwanted symptoms.
However, simply switching to sleeping on your side may greatly improve your respiratory function. Speak with your doctor or a sleep specialist about ideas. Or, try experimenting on your own to see if you have any success with this approach.
3. Use a Humidifier
Humidifiers add moisture to the air in your home. Oftentimes dry air, particularly in colder months, irritates your respiratory system and contributes to sleep apnea. Humidifiers can help open your airways, decreasing congestion and improving breathing.
Additionally, you can increase the efficacy of your humidifier by adding eucalyptus, peppermint, or lavender oil. These oils have anti-inflammatory properties, which can soothe your airway. Make sure, though, that you follow all instructions on properly maintaining your humidifier. They can often harbor bacteria if not cleaned regularly.
4. Reduce and Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol Consumption
Successful lifestyle changes can greatly improve your health and reduce sleep apnea complications. You can find remarkable relief from quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake.
Alcohol and tobacco relax the muscles in your throat that control breathing. This leads to snoring and disrupted sleep cycles, and the extra inflammation triggers sleep apnea symptoms. Scientists have also found a link between sleep apnea and predisposition towards smoking, so treating your sleep apnea symptoms may help you quit smoking.
5. Use OTC Oral Devices
There are readily available oral devices that can help you manage your sleep apnea. These OTC appliances work by repositioning your jaw and tongue to ensure your airways remain open during sleep. Generally, devices are divided into two categories—tongue stabilizing devices and mandibular advancement devices. They work by moving your lower jaw or tongue forward, decreasing blockages in the back of the throat.
You can find inexpensive, OTC options at most pharmacies or visit your dentist for a custom-fit device. These are both excellent options for people who are unable to tolerate CPAP devices. However, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine does advise custom-fit devices since they provide optimal jaw positioning for the highest sleep benefits.
Diet and exercise, in general, are great ways to improve your health, increase energy levels, and boost cardiovascular health. However, yoga in particular can have great advantages for people with sleep apnea. Yoga is specifically focused on breathing and increasing oxygen flow. Since yoga improves oxygen levels through breathing exercises, it can help prevent the sleep apnea that occurs from oxygen deprivation during sleep.
The best way to think of it is exercise specifically designed to strengthen your respiratory tract. Additionally, you can find countless videos and guides online for free or attend a class in your neighborhood.
The Best Natural Remedies for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can seriously hamper your ability to get a quality night’s sleep. This can lead to a wide range of complications including increased drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, worsened mental health, and other problems. Not only that, but sleep apnea can greatly disturb the sleep of those around you. For these reasons, finding ways to resolve your sleep apnea needs to be a priority.
From here, you can utilize the tools and strategies above to improve your overall wellbeing. Together, these natural remedies for sleep apnea are both effective and affordable. With proper treatment, these can help you avoid long-term CPAP treatment and future surgeries.
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