Firstly, before we go any further I think it’s important to clarify something:
I understand that an article entitled “Home Remedies for Sleep Apnea” may conjure up ideas of some fantastic drink or herb that can solve all your problems.
If only it was as easy as throwing a few items into a blender – your left over fruit and veg, the contents of that suspect looking carton that’s been lurking at the back of the fridge for the last couple of weeks.
You press the button, a couple of whizzes later, and you have produced a magical, golden elixir, a gift from the gods, that will finally banish your sleep apnea forever!
Eerm, no sorry, that’s not going to happen.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are certain foods and herbs which can help you sleep better, and you’ll find various articles on this website about these. There are certain foods that are good for your digestive system or which can help put you in a calming and relaxed state.
However, sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder, and it would be wrong of me to raise your hopes with the promise of any easy cure.
The truth of the matter is, the sleep apnea remedies that I wish to discuss mainly revolve around your lifestyle and your overall health. There are certain factors that contribute to sleep apnea and it here where the solution lies.
Sleep Apnea and Needles and Herbs
Okay, I did say that there wasn’t a magical cure for sleep apnea, but I quickly what to cover a couple of topics before Icompletely move on to clarify what will work.
I would hazard a guess there are some of you who may have considered acupuncture as a possible cure for sleep apnea. It is said that there are certain health benefits from acupuncture and millions of the people the world over will attest to its healing qualities.
But can it help in terms of sleep apnea?
There was study published in 2009 – 30 people with obstructive sleep apnea were treated with 3-5 acupuncture sessions per week. After 30 sessions all patients showed significant improvements in hypoxia (this is a condition where a certain area of the body is deprived of an adequate oxygen supply).
A further, but smaller, study was conducted in 2016 on the effects of acupuncture on sleep apnea, but the results proved to be inconclusive.
So, acupuncture may be a possible solution, but I would suggest that there is a lack of larger, clinical studies into the effects of acupuncture. Therefore, you should consult with your doctor before deciding to pursue this as a course of treatment.
Herbs – Yes I did say that there wasn’t a magical herb.
However, passionflower and Valerian are often recommended to treat sleep apnea. Nonetheless, there is no actual evidence to prove that a herbal remedy can help with sleep apnea.
The Facts About Sleep Apnea
The most common sign of sleep apnea is loud chronic snoring, typically followed by gasping or choking noises. However, it is important to note that not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is more prevalent in men than women. The most common demographic is men aged over 40, especially those who are overweight or obese. In fact, it is estimated that 70% of people with sleep apnea are overweight.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Morning headaches
- Dry throat when you wake up
- Memory problems and difficulty concentrating
- Daytime sleepiness
- Irritability and mood swings
- Signs and symptoms of depression
The people who have an increased risk of sleep apnea include:
- People with small airways in the nose, mouth and throat. This is often due to allergies or another condition that causes congestion.
- African-Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders.
- Those with a family history of sleep apnea.
- People with risk factors for stroke or heart failure.
The Lifestyle Changes You Need to Make
Earlier I alluded to the fact that there are certain lifestyle changes you can make in order to treat sleep apnea.
I’m sure if you’ve researched this topic before that many of these methods will be familiar to you. There is a reason for that, they work.
So, if you have read about any of these methods previously, but simply ignored them, it may be time for you to make some of these changes to your lifestyle.
- Losing weight is the most common method to either reduce or completely eliminate sleep apnea. I did mention that around 70% of people who suffer with sleep apnea are overweight, so there has to be something to this. By losing weight you can help to relieve constriction around the throat area, and even a modest reduction of weight in people who are obese can significantly reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime – Even if you don’t suffer from sleep apnea, you’ll enjoy a better night’s sleep anyway. Caffeine is a stimulant and will just keep you awake. By eating too late in the evening you’re not giving your digestive system adequate time to digest your meal.
- Quit Smoking – Smokers are 3 times more likely to have sleep apnea than non-smokers. Smoking causes inflammation and the retention of liquid in the upper airway.
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives like sleeping pills – I’m not a fan of sleeping pills at the best of times, but this is something that you should definitely avoid if you suffer from sleep apnea. The same can be said for alcohol. Basically, they relax the muscles at the back of the throat which can interfere with your breathing.
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- You should look to establish a sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning. This helps your natural body clock get used to when you should be asleep and when you should be awake. Sleep apnea will decrease when you are well-rested.
- Try sleeping on your side. When you sleep on your back you may find that the back of your tongue and soft palate will rest against your throat and block your airway.
- If you suffer from allergies or nasal obstructions the use of antihistamines and prescription nasal sprays can keep the nasal passage open while you sleep.
- Studies have shown that throat exercises can build up the muscles of the throat. This makes it less likely that the muscles will relax and block your airway during the night. Amazingly, wait for it… there is even a study that proves playing the didgeridoo is an effective way to build and strengthen the throat muscles**.
- Regular exercise is known to strengthen the heart and respiratory system, as well as increasing your energy levels. All of which can improve the symptoms of sleep apnea.
- Yoga is a fantastic form of exercise that can be used to treat this affliction. Sleep apnea is associated with decreased levels of oxygen saturation in the blood. Yoga will encourage the flow of oxygen through various breathing techniques and will improve your respiratory strength.
- Dry air can irritate the respiratory system, so one method of treating this can be to add moisture to the air with a humidifier. You can add essential oils to your humidifier, such as eucalyptus, lavender, or peppermint for their soothing and anti-inflammatory benefits. Ensure that you carefully follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions as humidifiers are known to harbor bacteria and mold.
** DISCLAIMER – If your partner is already having sleepless nights from the noise of your snoring, I’m not sure if playing a loud, aboriginal, wind instrument will help the relationship any.
The Other (Not So) Natural Methods
Possibly the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.This is a ventilator which uses a hose and a mask (or a nose piece) to deliver constant and steady air pressure.
There are other appliances available to those of you who can’t tolerate a CPAP device:
- Mandibular Advancement Device – This moves the lower jaw forward to decrease any possible obstruction in the back of the throat.
- Tongue Stabilizing Device – This will hold your tongue forward which can alleviate an obstructed airway.
As the focus of this article is home remedies for sleep apnea and the benefits of changes in your lifestyle, I will discuss the advantages (and potential disadvantages) of CPAP and other appliances in future articles.
The Ball’s in Your Court
So, as you can see the ball is very much in your court when it comes to treating sleep apnea.
I will say that these methods can dramatically reduce or even eliminate sleep apnea in most mild to moderate cases. However, if you suffer with severe sleep apnea you should be consulting a medical professional for your best options.
Unfortunately, for those of you suffer with sleep apnea you know only too well of the debilitating effect it can have on your everyday life, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Why not look into some of these methods of treating sleep apnea and see what a difference they can make.