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What is sleep apnea?
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.
Shop all Healthline-approved products for snoring and sleep apnea in our sleep shop.
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 six 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.
In some cases, weight loss can eliminate sleep apnea. However, if you regain the weight, it’s possible for the condition to return.
2. Try yoga
Regular exercise can increase your energy level, strengthen your heart, and improve sleep apnea. Yoga can specifically improve your respiratory strength and encourage oxygen flow.
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. Alter your 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.
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.
For added benefits, consider adding lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus oil to a humidifier. These three essential oils have known anti-inflammatory and soothing benefits.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning your humidifier. They can harbor molds and bacteria.
5. Avoid alcohol and smoking
Lifestyle changes can improve your health and encourage better sleeping habits. Consider quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake to reduce sleep apnea complications.
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.
6. Use oral appliances
Oral appliances can help with sleep apnea by repositioning your jaw or tongue to keep your airway open while you sleep.
The two major categories are mandibular advancement devices and tongue stabilizing devices. These work by moving your lower jaw or tongue forward to decrease the obstruction in the back of your throat.
These appliances range from low-cost, over-the-counter (OTC) options to devices that are custom-fit by a dentist.
The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine supports oral appliances as an effective therapy for sleep apnea.
A 2015 guideline recommends oral appliances for people with sleep apnea who can’t tolerate a CPAP device. This guideline endorses custom-fit appliances over OTC options because they allow for fine-tuned jaw positioning, which will result in better sleep quality.
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.