For moderate to severe sleep apnea CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is typically the best way to treat symptoms and get a good nights rest. But, if you have mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or want to make other changes to help make your CPAP treatment more effective, there are some lifestyle changes you may want to consider.
While they may share many of the same symptoms, sleep apnea isn't just snoring. Sleep apnea is a serious health condition that requires medical diagnosis and treatment in order for sufferers to avoid a number of negative health effects.
If you have been diagnosed with substantial or severe sleep apnea, CPAP is typically the first and most effective treatment option available. However, if you suffer from mild obstructive sleep apnea, or if you want to try other approaches to help increase the effectiveness of your CPAP treatment, there are other lifestyle changes that you may want to consider trying.
Although lifestyle changes may not work for everyone, in many cases these approaches help to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Lifestyle Changes That May Reduce Sleep Apnea Symptoms
There are a number of lifestyle changes which have been shown to be effective in reducing sleep apnea symptoms for some people. If your goal is to get a better night's sleep, these changes may be helpful in reducing your sleep apnea symptoms.
IMPORTANT: Sleep apnea is a serious health condition. Before making any lifestyle changes it is essential to check with your doctor to ensure that these changes are right for you.
- Many studies have been done on the effects of excess weight and sleep apnea symptoms. Doctors largely agree that if you are carrying extra weight, losing a few pounds can be very effective in reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea. People who are carrying extra weight often have extra tissue around their airway. Weight loss can help to shrink this excess tissue and allow air to flow more freely when breathing. Some studies have even shown that losing as little as 10% of your body weight can reduce sleep apnea symptoms by as much as a 30%! Ask your doctor whether losing weight could help you to get a good night's sleep.
Avoid Alcohol and Sedatives
- We know that for many people, a glass of wine in the evening can be a great way to feel more relaxed, but alcohol and sedatives can also have a relaxing effect on your throat muscles. Relaxed throat muscles can cause your airway to become obstructed and result in pauses in your breathing. To help reduce your sleep apnea symptoms avoid alcohol and sedatives for at least 4 hours before heading to bed.
Sleep on Your Side
- The risk of sleep apnea is increased in people who sleep on their back because gravitational pull increases the tendency for the jaw, tongue and soft palate to drop backwards toward the throat, narrowing the airway and leading to breathing difficulties. That's why training yourself to sleep on your side could help you to significantly reduce your sleep apnea symptoms. Try propping pillows up against your back while you lie on your side, or place a tennis ball in the back pocket of your pyjamas when you go to bed, to help prevent yourself from rolling onto your back while you are asleep.
- If you have mild sleep apnea and are not being treated with CPAP, a dental appliance may be the answer to reducing your sleep apnea symptoms. These devices work by holding your tongue and jaw forward, preventing them from slipping back into the throat and causing and obstruction. Sleep apnea dental appliances are relatively comfortable to wear and may help you to get a better quality of sleep. Speak to your dentist to find out more about custom-fitted dental appliances for sleep apnea.