Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing for short periods while you’re sleeping. People with sleep apnea don’t take in enough oxygen. This causes them to gasp and often wake up.
In many cases, people are unaware that they’ve stopped breathing, and believe that their sleep cycle is normal. Sleep apnea can sound like snoring.
Sleep apnea can cause a number of health complications besides leaving you more tired in the morning. If left untreated, this sleeping condition can:
- trigger mental health issues
- lead to poor immune function
- contribute to memory loss
- increase your risk of heart failure
Common treatments include breathing devices, medication, and surgery. However, some lifestyle changes and home care can also improve your quality of life and your sleep.
Traditional treatments for sleep apnea include wearing a CPAP mask at night. Though effective, some people find this method uncomfortable. Some home remedies may offer the same benefits. Here are five alternative treatments to reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Doctors commonly recommend people with sleep apnea to lose weight. Obesity, specifically in the upper body, can increase the risk of airway obstruction and narrow nasal passages. These obstructions can cause you to stop breathing suddenly or for lengths of time while sleeping.
Maintaining a healthy weight can keep your airways clear and reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Studies show that modest weight reduction in people with obesity can eliminate the need for upper airway surgery or long-term CPAP therapy.
In some cases, weight loss can eliminate sleep apnea. However, if you regain the weight, it’s possible for the condition to return.
Sleep apnea is associated with decreased oxygen saturation in your blood. Yoga can improve your oxygen levels through its various breathing exercises. As a result, yoga reduces the amount of sleep interruptions you may experience.
3. Sleep position
Though a small change, altering your sleep position can reduce sleep apnea symptoms and improve your night’s rest. A 2006 study found that more than half of obstructive sleep apnea cases are dependent on position.
Studies have shown sleeping on your back — called the supine position — can worsen symptoms. It can increase your snoring and block your airways. In some cases, sleeping on your side can help your breathing return to normal. This is particularly true for adults. However, a 2002 study found that children with obstructive sleep apnea sleep better on their backs.
Discuss body positioning and your sleep apnea symptoms with your doctor to evaluate your options for treatment.
4. Use a humidifier
Humidifiers are devices that add moisture to the air. Dry air can irritate the body and the respiratory system. Using a humidifier can open your airways, decrease congestion, and encourage clearer breathing.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning your humidifier. They can harbor molds and bacteria.
5. Avoid alcohol and smoking
Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles that control your breathing. This can lead to snoring and an interrupted sleep cycle. It can also lead to inflammation in your airways, blocking your airflow.
Similar to alcohol, tobacco use can also contribute to inflammation and swelling in your airways. This can worsen your snoring and your sleep apnea.
A 2012 study identified smoking as a risk factor for developing sleep apnea. The study noted that people with sleep apnea may have a predisposition to smoking as well, so treating sleep apnea may help in quitting smoking.
Some home remedies and lifestyle changes for sleep apnea can reduce symptoms. However, traditional treatments shouldn’t be ignored. Prescribed medications and sometimes surgery are part of the necessary approaches to treat this condition.
Discuss your options with your doctor before pursuing alternative treatment. If your symptoms begin to worsen, seek immediate medical attention.
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