Sleep apnoea is a condition that causes breathing to stop and start while sleeping. This significantly reduces the quality of sleep, leading to other health repercussions like depression and excessive tiredness during the day. Sleep apnoea is often caused or exacerbated by an unhealthy lifestyle. There are a number of simple changes that can make a huge difference, and it can be a good idea to try these before considering more extreme solutions. Medical treatments include a CPAP device, which prevents the airway from closing, and an MAD device, which holds your tongue and jaw in place. While effective, these devices can cause discomfort and inconvenience, so it's definitely worth giving more holistic solutions a try first.
Losing excess weight
Being overweight can be a big contributing factor to sleep apnoea. Carrying extra tissue around the neck and jaw can put pressure on the airway, causing an obstruction and leading to breathing difficulties which are particularly problematic while asleep. Being overweight can also be a barrier to regular exercise, which helps to strengthen the lungs and allow for more oxygen intake. Losing weight can be hard, so ask your doctor for advice. You may be referred to a dietician, and given specialist advice and a personalized diet and exercise plan.
It's no secret that smoking harms the lungs, causes regular coughing, and makes breathing harder. If you suffer from sleep apnoea, then it's really important to try and quit smoking. Other sleep apnoea solutions may not be as effective if you continue to harm your lungs by smoking. Ask for medical advice on quitting, and you may be offered nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gum, or inhalers. If you don't feel able to quit yet, then even cutting down on the amount you smoke and avoiding cigarettes in the hours before sleep can make a noticeable difference to your symptoms.
Cutting down on alcohol
Alcohol relaxes the central nervous system. That means that when you drink, the muscles in your throat can relax, leading to obstructions and making it harder to breathe. You should avoid all alcohol close to bedtime to ensure that this doesn't happen. If possible, quit drinking entirely for a week or so, and keep a record of your symptoms. If you see improvement, then you can be fairly sure that alcohol is contributing to your sleep apnoea. Once you've established this, you can slowly reintroduce drinking in small amounts, not too close to bedtime. Continue to monitor your symptoms, taking note of how much you drank, and at what time, until you find a balance that works for you.