Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that affects people when they are sleeping. People with this issue experience “apnea”, which are breaks in the breathing cycle. These can last up to several minutes and occur at least 5 times an hour. We give more information about this common condition here together with some advice on what to do if you suffer from this condition.
Characteristics of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea prevents you from getting enough sleep because it interferes with natural sleep rhythms. The sufferer sleeps lightly and does not achieve deep sleep. As a result, they will not be well rested – deep sleep is what your body needs to restore itself for the next day.
The results are very unpleasant and include low energy levels, less productivity, a reduction of daytime mental alertness and slow reflexes. It is not the same as straightforward drowsiness or insomnia. Left untreated it can lead to more serious problems like heart disease, obesity or hypertension. If sleep apnea is treated correctly the symptoms can be managed sleeping patterns improved.
Symptoms of sleep apnea at night
- pauses in respiration
- loud snoring
- restless sleep
- unusual sleeping position
- excessive sweating
Symptoms of sleep apnea during the day
- feeling of lack of breath on awakening
- Ppoor concentration
- mood swings
- tendency to breath through your mouth
- poor professional or academic performance
Causes of sleep apnea
The causes of sleep apnea can be summarised as :
- Obstructive sleep apnea: a narrowing of the respiratory passages during inhalation due to an imbalance in throat muscles. This leads to brief pauses when inhaling, which reduces the oxygen levels in the blood. The sufferer awakes up instantly because the brain detects that they are unable to breathe. Sometimes the mechanism goes back to functioning on its own with no awakening. This episode can happen several times a night causing fatigue and a choking feeling.
- Central sleep apnea: a less common condition. The brain does not communicate properly with the muscles that control breathing. In this case, the sufferer has problems getting to sleep and only sleeps very lightly. Cardiac patients often suffer from this kind of apnea and frequently wake up in the middle of the night.
- Complex sleep apnea: this is caused by an obstruction in the respiratory passages because of different factors or failures in the function of muscles that intervene. Some of the causes can be smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol in excess, the obstruction in the nasal passage, or family history.
Natural remedies for sleep apnea
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea you should discuss it with your doctor. In the meantime, these tips may help you manage your respiratory symptoms:
- Watch your weight: Obesity is linked with sleep apnea. Losing weight will relieve throat constriction.
- Get plenty of exercise: 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day is great. Try light walking or swimming.
- Avoid certain medications and alcohol: Some tranquilizers, sleeping pills or antihistamines are dangerous for sufferers of sleep apnea. Alcohol also makes it worse because it relaxes the rear muscles of the throat which interferes with respiration.
- Alter your sleeping position: Try to sleep your side with your face down. Don’t sleep on your back because your tongue will rest on your throat and block the respiratory passages. Some people even sew a cork or tennis ball to the back of their night shirt to prevent them turning over at night.
- Keep your nostrils open all night: You can use a saline nasal spray or bands. However do not use decongestants or antihistamines.
- Avoid consuming caffeine or very heavy dinners: it has been shown that caffeine interferes with the normal sleep rhythm, as do large meals.
- Regular sleep pattern: try to go to bed and wake up at the same time. You will become “programmed” to get enough sleep every night.
- Practice yoga: it involves breathing control and helps widen nostrils and respiratory passages. It requires regular practice to get the best results.
- Garlic: it helps to relieve the enlargement of the amygdala and inflammation of the respiratory system. You can make a garlic paste and consume this before bed or add more garlic to your meals. You can but garlic capsules if you would prefer.