Your daily habits have the power to improve your sleep apnea symptoms.
Even the most adventurous people are often creatures of habit on some level. We develop daily habits around how we get ready for each day, the route we take to work, and even the way we prefer to eat certain foods. Once we find a way of doing something we like or think works well, we tend to stick to it. The human body is incredibly complex and interconnected, though, so even seemingly small habits can add up and have a surprisingly large impact on our physical and mental health. This makes habits incredibly powerful!
Taking a look at your habits and adjusting them when necessary can help improve and protect your health in the long term. It can even help you reduce symptoms of existing conditions. If you have sleep apnea, establishing new habits or quitting others can reduce your symptoms and allow you to get better, deeper sleep. Here are 5 ways you can relieve your sleep apnea symptoms from home.
1. Sleep on your side.
The position you sleep in might seem like a small detail, but it can actually make a big difference in your symptoms! Obstructive sleep apnea is often caused by your tongue or the soft tissues of your throat relaxing too much in your sleep, causing them to collapse and block your airway. When you sleep on your back, gravity pulls these tissues downward, making it more likely that they’ll collapse. Switching to sleeping on your side reduces the pull of gravity on these tissues and decreases their chances of collapsing, thereby improving your sleep apnea symptoms.
2. Adjust your diet.
One of the major symptoms of sleep apnea is chronic, widespread inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a vital part of your body’s immune response, but when it’s chronic and widespread, it can lead to a range of health issues. Your diet can impact the inflammation levels in your body, with some foods increasing inflammation and others decreasing it. As a result, eating a balanced diet with an emphasis on managing your inflammation levels is important when you have sleep apnea.
This means cutting back on red meat and foods that are high in processed sugar or trans fats, such as deep-fried foods, while increasing fruits and vegetables like grapes, blueberries, and celery. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, and soybeans, are also great for reducing inflammation. Adjusting your diet with this in mind doesn’t mean avoiding inflammatory foods entirely, but you should try to limit how much of them you eat. Doing so will help you feel better and give you more energy — and that alone can be incredibly valuable!
3. Make time for exercise.
When you’re dealing with chronic fatigue from sleep apnea, exercising probably isn’t at the top of your to-do list. We understand why it’s not; after all, you’re already exhausted, and exercising has a high energy cost. In the long term, though, exercising can really help improve your symptoms by reducing the chronic inflammation that often results from sleep apnea. Plus, it doesn’t have to come with high energy costs! You don’t need to start by pushing yourself to run or pull off intense workouts. In fact, it’s best if you don’t.
Instead, ease into a simple, relatively low-energy workout routine. When you start small and slowly increase your workouts’ challenge level as you become more fit, you’ll feel less of an immediate drain on your energy reserves. It’ll also be easier to stick to it and turn it into a permanent routine. Yoga is a great option because it’s capable of providing great, surprisingly challenging workouts right at home, and there are plenty of resources for beginners that allow you to ease in at your own pace. While it does take an energy investment, especially at first, exercising can help cut down on inflammation, reduce your stress levels, boost your mood, and actually provide more energy in the long run! It’s also simply great for your long-term overall health, keeping your heart, muscles, and bones healthy.
4. Address habits or allergies that impact your airway.
When you have sleep apnea, it’s important to keep your airway as healthy and open as possible. Smoking causes irritation, inflammation, and an increase in fluids in your throat, all of which can narrow your airway and make breathing harder. This is why smokers are three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than nonsmokers. The habit doesn’t just put you at risk for developing the condition, though, as the continued impacts on your airway can actively worsen your symptoms. We understand that quitting is difficult and takes time, but it’s much better for your health in the long run and will help you breathe easier and sleep better at night.
Similarly, allergies can make it harder to breathe properly at night, worsening your sleep apnea symptoms. You can’t control your allergies, but addressing them can help open your airway. For many people, this is as simple as making a habit of taking over-the-counter allergy medication before going to sleep. If your allergies are still causing problems, however, you can schedule an appointment with an allergist to help you figure out how to better manage your symptoms.
5. Regularly visit your dentist.
This may sound like a strange suggestion at first, but your dentist may be able to help treat your sleep apnea — without the use of a CPAP machine! This is possible because of the relationship between the position of your jaw and your airway. Everyone has an ideal jaw position, where your jaw is relaxed and your airway is as open as possible, but not everyone sleeps with their jaws held in this position. If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea and can’t or don’t like wearing a CPAP machine, an oral appliance could be the ideal solution for you.
When you decide on this sleep apnea treatment, Dr. Sexton will find your ideal jaw position and take molds of your teeth, which will be used to make your custom-made oral appliance. The appliance, which looks a lot like a mouth guard, is worn at night to keep your jaw in its ideal position, helping to hold your airway open while you sleep. The resulting reduction in snoring and sleep apnea events during the night will help you sleep soundly. As a result, oral appliances make it possible to wake up feeling refreshed and well rested, even without a sleep apnea machine!
You don’t have to suffer in silence.
We know from experience that changing habits can sometimes be difficult, but the growing pains are well worth the rewards. After all, your habits have the power to improve your long-term health — not to mention transform the way you feel every day. If you’re interested in learning more about oral appliances and whether or not they could work for you as an alternative sleep apnea treatment, feel free to call our office and schedule a consultation with Dr. Sexton at any time!