Do you keep your partner awake at night with your snoring? Are you often tired during the day? Do you sometimes find yourself suffering from morning headaches, being a bit forgetful, unable to concentrate and irritable? If so, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a very common and often undiagnosed sleep disorder that, according to some estimates, affects five percent of the adult population. Characterized in particular by loud snoring and daytime tiredness, sleep apnea occurs because you stop breathing during sleep. This can occur literally hundreds of times each night and your breathing can be interrupted by up to a minute or more on each occasion.
Your breathing is interrupted either by a physical blockage to your airway (for example, loose skin in the back of your throat, or perhaps your tongue, blocking your airway), in which case you are said to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, or by a failure on the part of your brain to send out the necessary signals to the muscles of your body that control breathing, in which event your condition is described as central sleep apnea.
It is also possible to suffer from mixed sleep apnea which, as the name suggests, is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Both men and women suffer from sleep apnea, although the condition is more commonly seen in men and, in particular, men who are over 40 and overweight.
The main consequence of sleep apnea is that, because your sleep is very light, fragmented and of poor quality, you also suffer from insomnia, or excessive daytime tiredness. Your partner would probably disagree and say that the main problem is your snoring, but that's a different story!
There are a range of treatments available for sleep apnea (including surgery in particularly severe cases), but in the vast majority of cases your quality of life can be improved considerably with a few simple lifestyle changes and natural remedies. Indeed, in mild cases, this is often all that is needed.
Here are 7 simple tips to offset the effects of sleep apnea related insomnia and restore some of that lost daytime 'get up and go'.
Tip 1. Look at your weight.
If you're overweight then this is undoubtedly contributing to your problem. Losing just a few pounds can make a significant difference.
Tip 2. Avoid alcohol.
Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles and this makes it much easier for these muscles to 'collapse' during sleep and block your airway. There's no need to cut out alcohol altogether, but you should restrict your intake and certainly cut out alcohol in the three or four hours before going to bed.
Tip 3. Avoid sleeping pills.
Sleeping pills can also relax your throat muscles and cause similar problems to those seen for alcohol. Sleeping pills, however, can also cause a variety of other problems as well and there use is not recommended in cases of sleep apnea.
Tip 4. Avoid tobacco.
Smoking inflames your nasal tissues causing them to swell and restrict your nasal airway. Ideally, you should give up smoking altogether but, if this is too high a fence to jump, then try to cut down and, in particular, reduce your smoking during the evening.
Tip 5. Sleep on your side.
If you're typical of the majority of sleep apnea sufferers you sleep on your back, making it far easier for the tissues in your throat, and for your tongue, to block your airway. Even if you go to sleep on your side, you probably roll onto your back shortly after falling asleep.
Try propping yourself up with pillows or cushions so that you sleep on your side. If this doesn't work then sew something like a tennis ball into the back of your pajamas. You'll find that rolling onto the tennis ball will be quite uncomfortable and it will soon condition you to sleep on your side.
If you can't sew, find a shirt or tee-shirt with a breast pocket. Pop the tennis ball into the pocket and then wear the shirt back-to-front.
Tip 6. Improve your nasal breathing.
If you suffer from a 'stuffed up' nose, then try using a nasal spray to help open up your nasal airway. Nasal sprays should not however be used regularly or for prolonged periods, as they can cause damage to the tissues of the nose.
As an alternative, pop along to the drug store or chemist and buy yourself one of many very cheap devices that are available today to help keep your nose open while you sleep. Your pharmacist or chemist will be happy to show you what's on offer and to help you to make the right choice.
Tip 7. Avoid sleep deprivation.
Make sure that you are getting enough sleep and that you're following a regular bedtime routine. Also make sure that your bedroom conditions are set for sleep (the right temperature, quiet, dark etc.) and that you've dealt with the worries of the day and are relaxed and ready for sleep each night.
One of the major consequences of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea is insomnia, and curing the insomnia associated with sleep apnea is a major step in the management of the condition.
These are just a few simple tips but you'll be amazed at just what a difference they can make.