LIFESTYLE: wake up your life!
Positive lifestyle modifications can go a long way in reducing sleep apnea symptoms(1). There are many things you can do on your own to help yourself. Here are some suggestions:
People who are overweight carry extra tissue in the back of the throat, which blocks the flow of air and induces sleep apnea. Weight loss can open up your throat and reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea(2). Although losing weight is easier said than done, it can make a real difference to your body and quality of life, helping you to avoid both sleep apnea and other health problems (such as heart disease). In some cases, losing a significant amount of weight could even cure the condition(3).
However, people with sleep apnea generally find it harder to lose weight. Science shows that sleep deprivation slows down your metabolism, which can make you gain weight and even develop insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and high blood pressure. CPAP treatment will help you to get more consolidated sleep, so you will not have these fluctuations in hormone levels and will have more energy to proceed with a weight loss program. Treating sleep apnea can set off a very positive chain reaction.(4)
The role of exercise in the management of OSA is unclear. Nevertheless, some patients have reported an improvement in their symptoms.
Exercise can improve your quality of life by controlling your weight, boosting your mood, decreasing daytime drowsiness and promoting a better night’s sleep.
Regular physical activity can effectively help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep, reducing the number of awakenings per hour and decreasing apneic episodes.
Although exercise alone is not a complete solution for most patients with OSA, it may serve as a supplementary treatment strategy for those with mild to moderate OSA.(2)
Are you sure you have good sleeping habits? Combining these tips with a good routine may significantly improve your ability to rest when sleeping:
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- Stick to 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
- Do relaxing things a few hours before going to bed.
- Do not spend too long in bed: if you are not asleep after 20 minutes, go to another room until you feel tired again, then go back to bed.
- Get sunlight during the day.
- Avoid taking naps in the evening.
- Position yourself properly for sleep: prop your head up and lay on your side.
- Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and sedatives: these relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals at least 2 hours before going to bed.
- Put a stop to anxious thoughts: if you have a regular pattern of poor sleep, you may be concerned about ever sleeping well again. Worrying about your sleep will only make it worse. Do not let this anxiety disturb you and focus on relaxing instead.
So, what can you change to improve your sleep? Remember, it takes several days for a change to become a habit… It is worth a try, isn’t it?
(1) Obstructive sleep apnea-information prescription, www.nhs.uk, consulted on 04/21/2015
(2) Weight loss, breathing devices still best for treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Posted October 02, 2013, 1:54 PM Stephanie Watson, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch, available on http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/weight-loss-breathing-devices-still-best-for-treating-obstructive-sleep-apnea-201310026713, consulted on 05/25/2015
(3) Losing weight with sleep apnea, Ask the expert, National Sleep Foundation
(4) Norman JF, Von Essen SG, Fuchs RH, McElligott M. Exercise training effect on Obstructive Sleep Apnea syndrome, Sleep Research Online : SRO, 2000, 3(3):121-129.