Depending on the severity, the best way to treat a sleep apnea problem may involve a custom-made mouthguard that keeps your airway open as you sleep or a CPAP machine that does the same thing. It’s all about ensuring your airway remains unblocked.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by frequent interruptions of breathing during sleep. These interruptions occur when your throat muscles become so relaxed that they allow your tongue or other soft tissue to block your airway. These brief interruptions in breathing can occur up to 30 times an hour! Many if not most sleep apnea sufferers aren’t even aware it’s happening.
If you suffer from sleep apnea symptoms like chronic snoring and extreme fatigue during the day, we’ll work with a sleep specialist to diagnose you and determine the best course of treatment. As with all of our treatments, we believe in using the most conservative approaches whenever possible – or at least trying them first. Doing so saves time, money, and hassle.
So before fitting you for a mouthguard or a CPAP, we’ll help you with some natural methods of treating a sleep apnea problem. They may offer the relief you need and, bonus, some of them will also improve other aspects of your health.
Check out our suggestions, then call 1st in Smiles at 972-905-9266 to schedule a sleep apnea consultation with Dr. Rick Barfield.
Lose Some Weight
If you’re overweight, deposits of fat can impair breathing by making your airway more prone to collapse. In fact, a large neck size is a common indicator of sleep apnea. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), more than 50 percent of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight.
Losing 10 percent of your body weight is a good goal. We recommend making dietary changes that will help you feel full. Drink plenty of water and add high-fiber foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds to your diet. Fresh fruits and veggies like apples and carrots are good for your overall health and your dental health too. They work almost like a natural “toothbrush” to scrub remnants of other foods from teeth.
Add Exercise to Your Daily Routine
Another good way to lose weight is to add exercise to your daily routine. In addition to helping you lose weight, regular exercise can help break up nasal congestion that can contribute to a sleep apnea problem. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. It doesn’t have to be complicated; a brisk walk will do nicely.
Change Your Sleep Position
Sleeping on your back often worsens a sleep apnea problem because your tongue and soft palate tend to relax more when you’re in this position. There are many positional therapy devices that promise to keep you sleeping on your side instead of your back.
One of the least expensive to try is the Stop Snoring T-Shirt, which sells for about $22 on Amazon. It’s a t-shirt with a zippered pocket on the back. When you put a tennis ball (or similar object) in the pocket, it will make it uncomfortable enough to keep most people off their backs. Nearly three quarters of the more than 100 people who have reviewed it on Amazon gave the product a five-star review.
Reduce Use of Alcohol and Sedatives
Alcohol and sedatives both relax muscles, including those in your throat. Sleeping pills are especially problematic. In addition to relaxing muscles, they make it more difficult to awaken. This is a problem with apnea, because your body will need to send an even stronger signal of respiratory distress to your brain to rouse you enough to clear your airway. Avoid alcohol and sedatives before bedtime, if possible.
Smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Cigarettes irritate your throat, upper airway, tongue, soft palate, and uvula. Over time this irritation can cause the area to swell, making you more prone to airway blockage. For tips on quitting, check out our earlier blog post.
Keep Your Nasal Passages Open
A sleep apnea problem is often worsened by allergies or other nasal obstructions. Use antihistamines, nasal strips, or other products to help keep your nasal passages open. Raising your head while sleeping can also help clear congestion and help prevent acid reflux, another condition often associated with sleep apnea.
Some people find they are less congested if they use a humidifier in their bedroom. It may encourage your sinuses to drain, which makes it easier to breathe through your nose. You can also try applying a product like Vicks VapoRub to your chest before turning in. It will help naturally open your airway.
Want to talk to us about your sleep apnea problem? Call 1st i Smiles at 972-905-9266.