Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person's upper airways are partially or completely blocked. This obstruction causes the person to experience breathing pauses while sleeping, usually due to the relaxation of the muscles in the back of the throat. These are the muscles that help keep the airways open.
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. In people with central sleep apnea, breathing disruption is related to brain function, and is usually a symptom of a serious illness.
In this article, we focus on obstructive sleep apnea. Read on to learn more about the causes and diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, as well as about six home remedies that can help.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated 18 million adults and 10 to 20% of children who snore in the United States have obstructive sleep apnea.
People with moderate or severe sleep apnea should seek medical treatment to avoid complications, which may include heart disease and high blood pressure.
People with mild sleep apnea may also benefit from medical treatment, but the evidence on this issue remains inconclusive. There is no clear cut point to classify sleep apnea as severe rather than moderate and to determine if it requires medical treatment.
The following are examples of some natural remedies that a person can use at home, usually to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea.
1. Weight loss techniques.
For some people, carrying excess body weight can increase the likelihood of sleep apnea. In particular, excess fat in or around the neck can potentially affect a person's breathing and make sleep apnea worse.
Losing excess weight could be a good first step in treating obstructive sleep apnea. Some steps that a person can take to lose weight include:
- Reduce the intake of processed and fast foods
- perform regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day
- minimizing the consumption of drinks with high sugar content
Read about 10 great tips to lose weight here.
2. Healthy changes in lifestyle.
In addition to lifestyle changes that promote weight loss, other health changes may help a person reduce symptoms of sleep apnea.
Some examples of healthy lifestyle changes include:
- refrain from smoking, which can cause swelling in the upper respiratory tract, resulting in sleep apnea
- refrain from drinking alcohol, as it can relax the throat muscles and increase the likelihood of snoring
- Take over-the-counter allergy medications or nasal decongestants to increase air flow by reducing swelling and fluid accumulation in the nostrils.
These habits can help reduce the number of apnea episodes and the associated symptoms in some people with sleep apnea.
3. Side sleeping position
One of the most common approaches to home remedies for sleep apnea is a body positioning pillow or other similar device. These positioners work by preventing a person from sleeping on their backs. People who have obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have episodes when they sleep on their backs.
An example is a side sleeping bag, which is a vest-like garment that has a bulky part on the back. If a person tries to turn on his back when using the backpack, he cannot hold the position and must turn to one side or the other.
Some people may prefer to make their own positioner by securing a tennis ball or other item on their back that prevents them from turning while they sleep.
However, in a small study, half of the participants snored more frequently when using the positioner. Chronic snoring can damage the tissues in the upper respiratory tract, so it may not be a good solution for everyone.
4. Lift the head of the bed
Sleeping with the head of the bed at an angle of approximately 60 degrees can help reduce the number of apnea episodes. This solution can be effective for people who have sleep apnea that worsens when they lie on their backs but find it difficult to sleep on their side.
People can achieve this position by sleeping in a bed or chair that has an adjustable upper portion. Alternatively, they can use pillows or buy a wedge for their torso to keep their heads elevated.
You can buy a wedge pillow for sleep apnea here.
5. Didgeridoo playing
While this remedy may seem unusual at best, there is some data to support it. A small study presented in BMJ They discovered that participants who played didgeridoo had reduced daytime sleepiness and apnea episodes compared to people who did not play.
However, it is important to note that this study had only 25 participants.
The didgeridoo is a wooden wind instrument from Australia. Playing didgeridoo requires the use of a special breathing technique that can help strengthen the muscles of the upper respiratory tract. In this way, practicing the instrument can reduce episodes of sleep apnea.
6. Oral or dental appliances.
Another home remedy for sleep apnea is to use an oral device that keeps the tongue or jaw in a certain position to help facilitate better breathing.
However, in most cases, an oral device will require a prescription, and a dental professional who has sleep medicine training will need to adjust it.
Doctors have identified several factors that contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. These include:
- be over 40 years old
- being overweight
- Have a family history of sleep apnea.
- high alcohol consumption
- have a big overbite
- have a large tongue, tonsils or uvula
- have a small jaw
- of smoking
Most people who have obstructive sleep apnea snore. They may have a partner or loved one who tells them to snore loudly. Even if a person with sleep apnea does not snore, they may experience other symptoms, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, trouble concentrating or memory problems.
A person may wish to discuss their symptoms with a doctor, who will generally recommend a sleep study. The study may require that the person spend the night in a special facility, where medical professionals will monitor how often they stop breathing while they sleep, as well as their oxygen saturation and heart rate. However, home sleep tests are also a possibility and their use is increasing.
A person should keep in mind that snoring does not necessarily mean they have sleep apnea.
While snoring is an indicator of sleep apnea, a sleep study can help the doctor determine if a person has enough episodes of respiratory disorders or breathing interruptions so that sleep apnea is present.
If a person has problems with excessive daytime sleepiness, for example, if he sleeps at work or school, he should consult his doctor. They should also see their doctor if a loved one frequently sees them stop breathing while they sleep.
Sleep apnea can be a serious condition. When a person stops breathing, the heart works overtime to pump blood through the body to provide oxygen that the body does not receive during apnea episodes. This additional work can damage the heart and cause problems with high blood pressure and heart rate.
Traditionally, doctors treat sleep apnea by having a person use a special device called a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). This machine fits over the mouth or nose and provides additional positive pressure in the airways to prevent the airways from collapsing while a person is sleeping.
Doctors may also recommend surgery to treat sleep apnea, especially in children with enlarged tonsils and adenoids. A doctor can remove these larger structures in the back of the throat to improve air flow.
Learn more about sleep apnea and its possible complications here.
Sleep apnea is a condition that can affect the quality of life and physical health of a person.
Home remedies, such as healthy lifestyle changes and elevation of the head at night, can help reduce apnea episodes.
However, if a person has moderate or severe sleep apnea, they should consult a doctor. You will probably need to use a CPAP device to support your breathing.
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