Getting enough sleep feels luxurious, but it’s a necessity.
Sinking into bed at the end of a long day and dropping into a deep, restful sleep is one of life’s simple pleasures, but it’s also a necessary one. Your body uses sleep to repair itself and increase the production of certain cells, like those used in your body’s immune response, so getting enough of it is vital for your overall health. In fact, there’s actually a strong connection between getting enough sleep and the health of your entire body. This is why it’s so vital for people of all ages to get enough sleep every night. For those with sleep apnea, getting enough sleep is not as simple as crawling into bed and turning out the light.
If you have sleep apnea and struggle to wear your CPAP mask, getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be a rare blessing! There are a few other ways you can work to lessen your sleep apnea symptoms, helping you get full, restful nights of sleep again. Here are five ways you can relieve your sleep apnea symptoms.
1. Consider implementing a healthy diet and exercise routine to relieve sleep apnea.
Losing weight is one of the most common recommendations doctors provide to patients looking for ways to relieve their sleep apnea symptoms. If you have extra weight to lose, it really can help, but not everyone who has sleep apnea needs to lose weight. Even if it’d be helpful, some people have preexisting conditions or genetic factors that make it hard to lose weight. Even sleep deprivation itself can make it harder because it can cause chronic inflammation. As a result, simply being told to lose weight isn’t always helpful. That’s why our suggestion is that you implement a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine. Doing this is always beneficial to your health—regardless of how much you weigh!
—The right diet can decrease inflammation.
The right diet can help decrease chronic inflammation and can help you lose weight if you need to, but it also helps decrease your risk of getting health conditions that sleep apnea makes you more susceptible to, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Plus, according to Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can help relieve the symptoms of sleep apnea even without weight loss.
—Work up to a great exercise routine.
We understand that implementing an exercise routine can be difficult, especially if you’re already suffering from fatigue, so it’s okay to start slow! Start with easier exercises and move up from there as your energy and endurance improve. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly often helps fatigue, so you may also get a little boost of energy from building these habits! If losing weight isn’t an option for you, that’s okay! There are plenty of other methods you can try to manage your sleep apnea symptoms.
2. Stop sleeping flat on your back to help relieve sleep apnea.
Did you know that sleeping flat on your back is actually the worst position to sleep in if you have sleep apnea? When you sleep on your back, gravity works against you, playing a role in causing your airway to close. Adjusting to start sleeping on your side or stomach is much better for keeping your airway open, so it can improve your symptoms and help you sleep better. If you need to sleep on your back because of issues like acid reflux, elevating your head by raising the head of your bed or using a wedge-shaped pillow can help your symptoms as well. You may need to try a few different positions and pillow placements to find one that’s comfortable and that relieves your symptoms, but this trial-and-error process is often worth it!
3. Address serious airway issues.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, where your airway becomes obstructed during the night. This is often caused by the muscles in your throat or tongue relaxing too much. As a result, anything that causes your airway to narrow further can worsen your symptoms—but on the other hand, addressing existing issues with your airway can lessen them. Knowing about factors that are narrowing your airway gives you the knowledge you need to put together a pretty solid plan of attack to improve your symptoms!
—Find a trainer for your tongue and throat muscles.
Many people have dramatically decreased sleep apnea by exercising the airway and tongue muscles. A myofunctional therapist can do an orafacial evaluation and teach you the right exercises to open up your airway. According to a study by the National Institute of Health, myofunctional therapy has been shown to decrease sleep apnea events by about 50% in adults and 62% in children. And the good news is that our own Lindsey Edwards is now a trained orofacial myofunctional therapist.
For example, you can address issues like allergies using over-the-counter medication and running an air purifier in your bedroom. If your allergies aren’t improving, try visiting a doctor for extra tips or allergy testing to find out exactly what you’re allergic to. If there are other issues affecting your airway, you may also want to speak with your doctor about what you can do to lessen or eliminate them so that you’ll breathe easier at night.
4. Relieve sleep apnea symptoms when you stop smoking.
It’s well-known that smoking isn’t the healthiest habit to pick up, but it could also be worsening your sleep apnea symptoms in a number of ways. Cigarette smoke is an irritant to the upper airway and the skin in your mouth and throat. Over time, smoking can cause these areas to swell, actively resulting in sleep apnea or worsening existing cases of the condition. Plus, smoking has been shown to disrupt your sleeping pattern further. One study even found that smokers sleep less deeply and are four times more likely than nonsmokers to feel unrested after a full night’s sleep. Quitting isn’t easy, but it carries both short- and long-term benefits for your health—including the fact that it can vastly improve or even eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms. This makes it possible for you to feel truly rested again—and that alone makes it a pretty good reason to quit!
5. Visit your dentist.
Dentists have played an integral role in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea since the 1908s. They are trained to assess risk factors for sleep apnea in both children and adults. Many offer oral appliances that look a lot like a nightguard and fit snugly in your mouth. These appliances work by gently holding your jaw in a natural position to keep your airway open comfortably. Also, some dentists get extra training as myofunctional therapists, as we discussed above, so that your facial muscles learn to naturally keep your airways open better.
Ada Smile Place has its very own Trained Myofunctional Therapist.
Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is more than just a luxury—it’s a necessity for your short- and long-term health. Thankfully, you can still get a refreshing night’s sleep, even if you have sleep apnea. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help relieve your sleep apnea symptoms, feel free to call our Ada, OK dental office at any time to schedule a consultation.