If old habits die hard, some of them also help you die faster. Unfortunately, habits have a tendency to play with your mind and body. They grow on you by making you feel comfortable and happy in the beginning; till a time comes when they start to rule your life. By then you have become their slaves, incapable of coming out their clutches.
One of the best known areas where habits start to rule our lives is in the area of sleep. We either cannot sleep, or sleep too much; we wake up too early or toss and turn in bed and wake up too late. To top it all, if we are affected with a serious sleep disorder like sleep apnea, then all hell breaks loose; as this disorder can be one of the worst sleep interrupters with recurrent breathing pauses, etc.
Yet the reason for the onset of sleep apnea could have a lot to do with poor habits, lifestyle choices and substandard sleep hygiene.
Importance of sleep hygiene: why do we need them at all?
Are we clear on the common factors that cause sleeping problems? Here are some reminders:
- Adverse health conditions including pain, hormonal disorders, allergies
- Lifestyle choices including alcohol, smoking, diet
- Mental problems including depression, anxiety, stress
- Personality style
- Reaction of current medication
- Poor sleeping environment
If you give due priority to the 24-hour cycle that involves sleep, body temperature, alertness, etc and believe that it is important to establish and maintain healthy sleep-wake patterns to retain overall health and quality of life, then the only way one can achieve the important goal is to practice sleep hygiene techniques.
Some of the common sleep hygiene techniques that benefit people with sleeping problems include:
- limit alcohol consumption;
- minimize consumption of coffee and other psychoactive substances;
- quit smoking;
- reduce naps not exceeding one hour per day;
- do physical exercises; limit time spent in bed;
- maintain a regular sleep schedule;
- improve bedroom environment including the right temperature, bed attire, colors of upholstery;
- proper lighting reducing noise
Sleep hygiene techniques that help sleep apnea patients
Sleep hygiene techniques could provide excellent results to someone who simply has to cope with ordinary sleeping problems. But are they enough for someone suffering from a distressful sleep disorder like sleep apnea or should this individual take some additional steps?
There are two specific areas that a patient suffering from sleep apnea should pay special attention to:
1. Sleeping position
2. Appropriate mattress and pillow height
Numerous scientific studies have been done to study the effect of sleeping positions on health and aggravation of symptoms of many chronic conditions. It has been found that sleeping on the back is perhaps the worst sleeping position for patients suffering from sleep apnea, coughing attacks, irregular breathing, asthma, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, snoring, bruxism and many other diseases.
Sleeping on the back is dangerous because in this position the breathing muscles of the apnea patient tend to collapse, which blocks the airway, aggravating the sleep apnea.
Therefore one of the most important sleep hygiene techniques for the apnea patient is to sleep more on one’s side (preferably on the left side).
Appropriate mattress elevation and adequate pillow height
Though sleeping on one’s side is the most recommended sleeping posture for apnea patients, as it minimizes extra weight on the chest and promotes better alignment of internal airways, some people may find this posture uncomfortable, especially those who are obese.
Memory foam mattresses help by eliminating the pressure points that create the discomfort. With the removal of discomfort and sleep interruption, the sleep apnea patient is able to use the specially designed sleep apnea pillows and also sleep on the sides.
While raising the pillow height can immediately reduce snoring, the sleep apnea pillows are specially designed for keeping the head, neck, spine and shoulders better aligned to keep the upper airway open during sleep.
It has also been found that inclined mattresses help in significant reduction of apnea symptoms. To make an inclined bed, a simple way is to add thick books or folded blankets under the side of the mattress where the head is located.
Links to Studies on Sleep Hygiene and Sleep Apnea