Updated: Mar 15
If you're one of the 18 million Americans who have sleep apnea, you know how important it is to get a good night's sleep. But what happens when your sleep is interrupted by loud snoring or gasping for air? Apnea can make it hard to get the restful sleep you need, which can leave you feeling exhausted during the day. There are ways to get the proper diagnosis for sleep apnea such as at home sleep apnea testing and treatments available that can help, but it's also important to make lifestyle changes that can improve your sleep and reduce the symptoms of apnea. Here are some tips for getting better sleep when you have sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects breathing. It can cause people to snore loudly, and wake up frequently during the night. Sleep apnea can also lead to daytime fatigue, and increase the risk of accidents. The good news is that sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, and CPAP machines.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn’t send signals to the muscles to breathe. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both OSA and CSA.
Sleep apnea can be mild, moderate, or severe depending on how often your breathing stops and starts. It can also increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health problems.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are several possible causes of OSA, including obesity, large tonsils or other blockages in the airway, smoking, alcohol use, family history, age, and anatomical abnormalities in the mouth or throat. CSA can be caused by conditions that affect the respiratory control center in the brain, such as stroke, heart failure, or the use of certain drugs.
What Are The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
The main symptom of sleep apnea is loud and persistent snoring. However, there are other symptoms of sleep apnea that you may not be aware of.
If you have sleep apnea, you may also experience:
• Waking up gasping for air or with a dry mouth • Morning headaches • Difficulty concentrating during the day • Irritability or moodiness • Falling asleep during the day
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
There are a few different ways that sleep apnea can be treated. The most common treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This involves using a machine to pump air into your lungs while you sleep. The air pressure keeps your airway from collapsing and helps you to breathe more evenly.
Another common treatment is wearing an oral appliance. This is a mouthguard-like device that helps to keep your airway open while you sleep. It can be custom-made to fit your mouth, or you can purchase one over the counter.
A third treatment option is surgery (called UPPP for uvulopalatopharyngoplasty). The most common type of surgery for sleep apnea is a tonsillectomy. But it can also involve removing or shrinking the adenoids, or even your tonsils. Surgery for sleep apnea isn't always the best option. Sometimes, you can try other types of treatments first. However, these should be discussed with your doctor first to see if they’re right for you.
Getting Better Sleep With Sleep Apnea
It can be difficult to get a good night's sleep when you have sleep apnea, but there are some things you can do to improve your sleep quality. Here are some tips on how to get better sleep when you have sleep apnea:
When you sleep with sleep apnea, it can be difficult to breathe without waking up. You'll wake up because your throat muscles are contracting, which leads to snoring and breathing problems. One way to improve your quality of sleep is to talk to your doctor about using a CPAP machine while you sleep. CPAP machines are designed to hold your airway open so your throat muscles can relax and you stop snoring. CPAP machines come in different sizes and styles, so your doctor will help you pick out the one that is right for you.
2. Don't Drink Alcohol
A lot of people drink alcohol before bedtime, but it can cause you to have interrupted sleep or even snoring. Alcohol causes drowsiness and makes you fall asleep quickly. But then it wears off in the middle of the night and you wake up. Drinking alcohol before bedtime also causes your throat muscles to relax, which leads to snoring. If you have a drink, limit it to one.
3. Use Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises can help you stop snoring. Deep breathing exercises can relax your throat muscles and improve your breathing. There are many simple breathing exercises you can do, but the most effective is called the 4-7-8 exercise. Breathe in through your nose to a slow count of 4. Hold your breath for a slow count of 7. Exhale through your mouth to a slow count of 8. Repeat this cycle 3 to 5 times.
4. Try a Mouthguard
A mouthguard is a device that fits in your mouth to keep your jaw and tongue from falling forward and blocking your airway. If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, you could be more likely to snore. A mouthguard can help keep your jaw and tongue in the right position so you breathe more easily. Talk to your dentist about getting a mouthguard that will fit properly and make sure you wear it every night.
5. Lose Weight
Obesity is a major risk factor for sleep apnea. Losing weight can help reduce snoring, which could help you breathe better during the night.
6. Have a Snoring Exam with Your Doctor
If you are overweight and snore, your doctor may want to order a sleep study. This test tells your doctor whether you have sleep apnea. If so, you may be able to take medicine or use other methods to help treat the condition.
If you have sleep apnea, you may be wondering how to get better sleep. Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep. This can cause snoring, gasping, or choking sounds. It can also cause you to wake up frequently during the night. Sleep apnea can make it difficult to get a good night's sleep, which can impact your overall health. There are treatments available that can help you get better sleep when you have sleep apnea.