Sleep Well with these Natural Cures for Sleep Apnea

Did you know?

According to the National Institute of Health, sleep apnea is the leading cause of excessive daytime drowsiness in adults.

A Yale University study found that sleep apnea can double the risk for having a stroke! It can also heighten blood pressure, increasing the risk for blood clots and other cardiovascular diseases.

National Health Institute states that 50 million to 70 million Americans have sleep or wakefulness disorders, and sleep apnea affects at least 12 million to 18 million Americans every year

Causes, symptoms and side effects of sleep apnea

Many people view snoring as a funny quirk, or something to be embarrassed about. But loud snoring—especially when accompanied by daytime fatigue—may be a sign of sleep apnea, a common disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts as you sleep. Sleep apnea can leave you feeling exhausted during the day, affect your mood and your relationship with your bed partner, and even be dangerous to your health.

Someone struggling with sleep apnea might repeatedly stop breathing up to 30 times every hour, often for a few seconds to minutes at a time, and without the person being aware of it at all. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when the tone of muscles and tissue in the throat is lost during sleep, resulting in the partial or complete collapse of the upper airway. This blockage limits airflow for several seconds at a time, even when the brain signals to the body to breathe.

In adults, the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity, that is associated with the soft tissue of the mouth and throat. Many other factors also are associated with the condition in adults. Sleep Apnea is far more serious than many of the myths prevailing about it might suggest.

Missing your sleep can take toll on your life

Sleep apnea usually disrupts your sleep, which makes you tired during the day and causes excessive daytime sleepiness.

According to the Art of Living Happiness Program, the quality of your sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining your energy levels throughout the day, along with other factors like nutritious food, good breathing habits, and a calm and happy state of mind.

Often overlooked by most people (especially in the U.S), sleep is one of the most important factors in your health. Not getting at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night can be just as unhealthy as eating poorly and not exercising. If you sleep less than 7 hours per night, your chances of getting sick triples. The British Medical Journal recently found that women working the night shift for a long time had doubled their risk of breast cancer. Sleep disturbances and sleep apnea are also associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, depression, memory problems, viruses, and sexual dysfunction. Sleep disturbances have also been associated with car accidents, poor job performance, low grades in school, and higher susceptibility to common colds and the flu.

Self-help measures and natural remedies to reduce sleep apnea

Here are some bedtime tips for preventing sleep apnea:

Sleep on your side. Some people only experience sleep apnea when sleeping on their back. Avoid sleeping on your back, which makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to obstruct your airway.

The tennis ball trick. To keep yourself from rolling onto your back while you sleep, sew a tennis ball into a pocket on the back of your pajama top, or wedge a pillow stuffed with tennis balls behind your back.

Prop your head up. Elevate the head of your bed by four to six inches, or elevate your body from the waist up by using a foam wedge or special cervical pillow.

Open your nasal passages at night by using a nasal dilator, saline spray, breathing strips, or a nasal irrigation system (neti pot).

Tighten the muscles that keep the mouth closed. Try chewing gum or holding a pen between your teeth for about 10 minutes before bedtime, or until your jaw starts to ache

Some useful diet tips for sleep apnea

Melatonin – Wake-Sleep cycles are regulated by melatonin, which is a hormone produced by our brain. Rich sources of Melatonin include rich red cherries,  pineapples, bananas, oranges, oats, sweet corn, rice, tomatoes, barley, milk.

Tryptophan – helps induce sleep, fight anxiety, and can also help burn more body fat. Foods rich in tryptophan are pineapple, cheese, tofu,  chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, and peanuts. Complex carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-rich meals help improve the quality of sleep. Carb-rich foods that should be consumed are – baked sweet potatoes, oatmeal, milk.

Healthy fats and protein -  like real olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. These are all rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that make it easier for the body to process melatonin.

Adaptogen herbs - like maca, ginseng and rhodiola can help control health conditions that can make it hard to lose weight

High-fiber diet - Some of the best sources of dietary fiber include fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, sprouted beans or legumes, and ancient whole grains. Aim for at least 25–30 grams daily.

While a diagnosis of sleep apnea can be scary, it is a treatable condition. In fact, there are many things you can do on your own to help, especially for mild to moderate sleep apnea. Home remedies and lifestyle modifications can go a long way in reducing sleep apnea symptoms and improving the quality of your sleep. These are worth trying out as an alternative or in addition to CPAP. However, these strategies should not replace medical evaluation and treatment.

1. Lose weight - People who are overweight have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep. Even a small amount of weight loss can open up your throat and improve sleep apnea symptoms.

2. Quit smoking -  Smoking contributes to sleep apnea by increasing inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway.

3. Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives - especially before bedtime, because they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing.

4. Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed.

5. Maintain regular sleep hours - Sticking to a steady sleep schedule will help you relax and sleep better. Sleep apnea episodes decrease when you get plenty of sleep. 

6. Exercise regularly and eat well-balanced diet - As several clinical studies have demonstrated, even a 10% reduction in weight can have a drastic effect in improving your health. Paying attention to both - your diet and exercises is important. As well as helping you lose weight, regular exercise can have a major effect on the duration and quality of your sleep. Aerobics, resistance training, and simple throat and tongue exercises coupled with these diet tips can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms. 

7. Practice yoga regularly - Yoga and meditation improve quality of sleep and are also good for strengthening the muscles in your airways and improving breathing. Over 65 independent studies conducted on four continents and published in peer-reviewed journals have demonstrated a comprehensive range of benefits including enhancing sleep quality from practicing Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique taught on the Art of Living Happiness Program.

8. Sing to your heart and play Didgeridoo - One randomized study even showed that singing and playing instruments that strengthen the airways, like the didgeridoo, can ease sleep apnea.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


By Sejal Shah, E-YRT 500 Yoga Teacher, Art of Living Teacher, Mind-Body Wellness Writer, Yogi, Meditator, Homeopath

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