If you have been diagnosed with a serious breathing-related sleep disorder like sleep apnea, it is obvious that you would need to be treated by a doctor specialized in the field of sleep medicine. Be that as it may, there are several simple lifestyle and behavior changes that do not need any medical intervention, yet can be integrated with the mainline therapy, which in turn can help you recover faster and reduce the severity of the distressful symptoms.
Sleep apnea is inextricably linked to what you eat, drink and the kind of activity you do throughout the day. In fact, Stuart F. Quan, M.D., of Harvard, reported in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that people suffering from severe sleep apnea consumed more saturated fat, cholesterol-rich diets and protein compared to people who did not experience much sleep disturbance.
Home remedies for sleep apnea:
1.) Eating the right foods
Like you need adequate amount of sleep at night to function optimally during the day, you also need to ensure that you consume the right diet to get it. Today’s fast-paced lifestyle includes consuming enormous amounts of coffee, fizzy aerated drinks and candies in order to ‘boost’ daytime energy. If you trace back the origin of such preferences, you would be surprised to find that inadequate sleep can kick-start a chain of events which are detrimental both to the mind and body. For example, insufficient sleep keeps you tired the whole day; craving for coffee increases proportionately to the degree of tiredness; your increased coffee consumption robs you of even more sleep and the chain repeats itself from the next morning.
If you are a patient of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), popularly called acid reflux, your diet and sleep pattern are more closely interlinked. According to National Sleep Foundation 2001 Sleep in America poll, people who complain of nighttime acid reflux are likely to be suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea, etc.
So what is the right type of foods to have and which are the foods to avoid? Here is a quick check list:
- Ensure that you consume vitamin and mineral-enriched diet. Discuss with your doctor regarding the right amounts of protein, fat, calories, fiber and important nutrients that you would need considering your present body weight and status of your apnea.
- Consume foods that are sleep-inducers like cheese, avocados, bananas, nuts, milk and turkey.
- If doctor asks you to reduce weight, opt for a low calorie high protein diet.
- Always make sure that you have drunk at least 8 to 10 glasses of water every day.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, processed foods and foods that contain saturated fats. Also sedatives and tranquilizers should be avoided. These over-relax the throat muscles and create breathing problems.
- Say no to sweetened foods.
- If you are on herbal supplements, get the brands and contents re-checked and confirmed by your doctor.
2.) Doing physical exercise
For this you do not have to get yourself enrolled in a work-out center, etc. You could go for a brisk walk every day that lasts for about half an hour. Remaining physically active by doing simple home exercises not only helps you sleep better by making you physically tired, but also eases symptoms of apnea.
3.) Changing/improving the way you sleep
When you sleep on your back you make breathing more difficult. But sleeping on the sides or even the abdomen helps the tongue and soft palate to rest on the throat muscles. This eases breathing to a large extent. In case you tend to roll over towards the back, you could stitch a tennis ball to the upper back section of the sleeping pajamas.
- Sleep on a higher pillow (raise it by 4 to 6 inches). There are also special sleep apnea pillows available that help in keeping the perfect alignment of head, shoulder and spine during sleep.
4.) Keeping the nasal airway open
Though recommended only for short-term use, you can talk to your doctor about using decongestants or antihistamines to keep the nasal pathway open during sleep. Saline nasal sprays, nasal dilators and nose strips are also helpful.
5.) Using alternative therapy
- Aroma therapy works wonderfully for some patients of apnea. Aroma of vervain flowers are normally used for this therapy.
- Homeopathy is a century-old medical option used for treating a wide range of ailments including sleep disorders. Using lachesis and homeopathic opium has yielded commendable results.
- Herbal therapy includes use of Passiflora incarnate, Avena sativa, and Scuttelaria laterifolia. Some natural ingredients when combined with certain herbs may also provide relief. The names are: Schizandra chinesis, Hypericum perforatuma, Magnesium lactate, Vitamin B6, and Calcium lactate.
6.) Doing sleep apnea exercises
There are several types of such exercises designed to tone and strengthen the otolaryngologic (throat, nose and mouth) so that they are no longer weak and flaccid due to excess fat accumulation. The type of exercise that will be good for you will depend on which breathing muscles need further toning. Some of these exercises are: playing the didgeridoo, singing, yawning, etc. They are special exercises for the throat muscles and improve movement of the soft palate, palatopharyngeal arch, tongue and nasopharynx. Research has shown that such exercises ease the symptoms and reduce the seriousness of the condition. Exercises are also there for toning muscles of the jaw and tongue.
7.) Practicing yoga
There is no denying that sleep apnea can be one of the most distressful sleep disorders. But one can get significant amount of relief by using several types of home remedies for sleep apnea which are far less expensive, side-effect free and most importantly have no negative impact on the condition or overall health.
References & Resources:
- Effects of Oropharyngeal Exercises on Patients with Moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome
- Can singing exercises reduce snoring? A pilot study
- Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomised controlled trial
- Positional therapy for obstructive sleep apnea: an objective measurement of patients’ usage and efficacy at home
- Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome with a Kampo-formula, San’o-shashin-to: a case report
- Impact of long term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly
- Impact of sleep hygiene on patients with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome
- Obstructive sleep apnoea and breathing retraining
- Treatment of moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome with acupuncture: A randomised, placebo-controlled pilot trial
- Effect of Weight Loss on Upper Airway Collapsibility in Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Complementary Practices for Sleep Apnea
- Increased prevalence of perennial allergic rhinitis in patients with obstructive sleep apnea
- Effect of improved nasal breathing on obstructive sleep apnea
- Penn State Hershey – Sleep Apnea Treatments
- Higher Prevalence of Smoking in Patients Diagnosed as Having Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness in a General Population Sample: The Role of Sleep Apnea, Age, Obesity, Diabetes, and Depression
- Hypno Institute Explains Sleep Hypnosis
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Sleep Disturbances in Older Adults
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide – University of Maryland Medical Center
- Lifestyle modifications and the resolution of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: a case report
- Nasal dilator strip therapy for chronic sleep-maintenance insomnia and symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing: a randomized controlled trial
- Use Saline Sprays to Relieve Snoring Caused by Allergies
- Sleep Apnea Avoidance Pillow Effects on Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome and Snoring
- Treatment of Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome with a Chinstrap
- Review of oral appliances for treatment of sleep-disordered breathingClick to replace anchor text
- A Multicenter, Prospective Study of a Novel Nasal EPAP Device in the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Efficacy and 30-Day Adherence
- A multicenter evaluation of oral pressure therapy for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea
- Residual Effect of THN Hypoglossal Stimulation in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Disease-Modifying Therapy