Sleep apnea can not only take a tremendous toll on someone’s physical health, but their mental health as well. Being exhausted all the time has been shown in studies to lead to feelings of depression, plus people simply don’t have the energy they need to do what they want in their lives. While professional help offers the most direct solution, there are actually three things you can do on your own that are proven to reduce sleep apnea symptoms and greatly improve your overall well-being.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The leading preventable cause of sleep apnea in the United States is obesity, as an excess of fatty tissue on the throat makes it more likely that someone’s airway will become obstructed throughout the night. When it comes to weight loss, advice is abundant out there, and not all of it is sustainable or based on reality.
In short, no matter how much weight you would like to lose, the biggest thing you’ll need to adjust is your diet. Instead of going on some extremely restrictive program, it’s better to make small changes over time. Try eating out one less day a week. Order the medium soda or coffee instead of the large. See how a side salad goes with your meal instead of fries. These minor adjustments can remove hundreds and eventually thousands of calories from your intake, and it will make future changes feel easier and more natural.
Avoid Certain Habits
Smoking, vaping, drinking alcohol excessively, and taking too much pain medication have all been shown to contribute to sleep apnea. Smoking/vaping irritates and inflames the airway, narrowing it, while alcohol and medication can make the muscles of the throat become too relaxed and collapse together.
Similar to the point above, the key to stopping these is to do so slowly. Cold turkey might work for a week or so, but most people can’t stick to it because their body still has cravings. Gradually reducing how much you smoke and drink or how many pills you consume will make the journey much smoother both physically and mentally. And, because your sleep will be improving, you’ll feel more motivated and have more willpower as well.
Try Side Sleeping
Thankfully, this last tip is a little easier compared to the other two. Countless studies have shown that people who consistently sleep on their back experience worse sleep apnea symptoms than those who are on their side. Why? It comes down to gravity. When you’re on your back, the oral tissues (including the tongue) are pulled toward the back of the throat, creating a blockage. Sleeping on your side avoids this.
The key to changing your sleep position is to go to bed, start on your side, and stay on it until you absolutely need to switch to your back. Eventually, you’ll be able to fall asleep on your side. Don’t feel bad if this process takes a few days or even weeks!
Of course, none of these at-home remedies should serve as a substitute for professional treatment, but rather work in tandem with it. While these will definitely take your health and sleep to the next level, for some people, the only way they can completely get rid of sleep apnea is by working with a doctor. That’s not to say the tips above are pointless—they will make sleep apnea much easier to manage and help you avoid having to wear a CPAP machine to bed, instead being able to use a comfortable oral appliance.
About the Author
Dr. Jeff Rodgers is a dentist who specializes in sleep medicine, and he has been serving the Dunwoody and Greater Atlanta area for over 20 years. A Diplomate of both the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and the American Sleep and Breathing Academy, he offers a unique level of expertise when it comes to helping those with snoring and sleep apnea problems. He has already helped countless patients start sleeping better using custom-made mouthguards, and he’s eager to do the same for you or a loved one. To learn more or schedule a consultation with Dr. Rodgers, click here or call (770)394-4310.