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How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is the involuntary obstruction of the airway causing difficulty breathing. Many individuals are not diagnosed and believe that they are simply horrible snorers. This is because it is difficult to test for sleep apnea in the typical doctor’s office visit because many of the symptoms must be observed while one sleeps and there are no blood tests for the disorder. 1

There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea is the least common of the two and is characterized by the brain failing to send the correct signals to the muscles involved in breathing causing individuals to not breathe for brief periods of time. Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common and is characterized by the airway being narrowed or blocked during sleep.

Many are affected by sleep apnea, and risk of experiencing symptoms increases as individuals get older. Of individuals over the age of 65, 1 in 10 will be affected by sleep apnea. 1

The best way to combat sleep apnea is through weight loss. Around 70 percent of those who have obstructive sleep apnea or snoring are overweight. 2 Weight loss helps with snoring alone, but has also been shown to assist in sleep apnea because of positioning and overall increased health.

Because of this chronic interruption in the sleep cycle, individuals are prone to experiencing all of the negative factors that occur from sleep deprivation. These factors include weight gain, consistent drowsiness and decreased alertness, which can lead to increased stress.

Positional therapy is the concept of training the body to sleep in a different position. Many individuals with sleep apnea report sleeping on their back, which only worsens the snoring. An effective way to combat this is by sewing a tennis ball to the back of your pajama shirt to make sleeping on your back very uncomfortable. Be sure to change your pillow to one suited for your new sleep position.

Surgery on the nasal passages is somewhat effective in treating snoring, however, because it is difficult to determine exactly where the obstruction in the airways occurs, it is not guaranteed to cure individuals of sleep apnea. 2

Oral appliances resemble athletic mouth guards and help push the jaw forward to aid in opening airways. 2 They have been proven to help stop snoring; however, sleep apnea can still occur and go untreated.

For those with moderate to severe sleep apnea, a positive airway pressure (PAP) device is suggested and most widely used. The device is a nose or facial mask that is connected to a machine by a flexible hose that allows constant air flow into the mouth and nose helping to keep airways open.

Sleep apnea can also be treated through elevating the head while still keeping the spine aligned. This can be accomplished through the use of an adjustable bed or inserting a firm pillow below the mattress.

Those with sleep apnea should exercise caution when using alcohol, sleeping pills or other depressants due to the risk of dying because the body cannot be fully aware of when the breathing passage is closed during sleep. Additionally, treating snoring can dilute the warning signs that sleep apnea may be present. Therefore, it is not required to snore in order to have sleep apnea. 2

Bibliography:

1. National Heart Blood and Lung Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea/

2. American Sleep Apnea Association http://sleepapnea.org/diagnosis-and-treatment/treatment-options.html

Does Exercise Help You Sleep Better?

Exercise benefits the body and mind in many ways, one being sleep ability. The National Sleep Foundation’s study showed that those who participated in the national guideline of exercise (150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week) showed a 65 percent increase in sleep quality. 1 Physical activity and sleep go hand in hand, and proper integration of both can result in improved overall feeling of well-being.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercises include running or jogging, biking, swimming, skiing, tennis, dancing and any other activity requiring a great deal of movement. This active fashion of exercise has shown to drastically improve overall quality of sleep including ability to fall asleep and waking up refreshed. 3 Aerobic activities are thought to give the body more energy, so avoid doing them close to bedtime.Exercising regularly is vital to its success. Stopping exercise for just 72 hours can result in beginning of deterioration of fitness. 2

Yoga

Yoga has been proven to help relax the mind and body. The stretching in yoga can help prepare the mind and body for bed, especially if a harder workout occurred earlier in the day. Sleep disorders such as insomnia and restless legs syndrome have been shown to have reduced symptoms when doing yoga prior to bedtime. Yoga has been proven to help relieve stress and though yoga poses may not help you shed unwanted body weight, they will help you prepare for a good night’s sleep.

Effects of Regular Exercise

Regular exercise can help improve heart and lung functioning as well as increase the production of endorphins (natural mood enhancers produced by the brain). Endorphins help to reduce pain, relax muscles, suppress appetite and increase overall well-being. 2 Participants in a study conducted by Northwestern Medicine reported overall decreased depressive symptoms, increased vitality and less daytime drowsiness. 3

Just as exercising helps with sleep quality, sleep helps with effectiveness of exercising. No exercise regimen will be successful without the adequate amount of recovery time. Sleep will allow for higher levels of alertness and more energy, making exercise as fulfilling as possible.

Exercising only helps to induce sleep when practiced around six hours before bedtime. If exercising too close to the time you would like to go to sleep you may experience increased alertness and insomnia. Additionally, the body takes around fix to six hours to cool itself down to normal temperature after a workout. If exercising too close to bedtime, increase body heat can cause restlessness. The body’s natural cooling can help to lull individuals to sleep as cooler temperatures have shown to help with sleep quality.

Increasing amount of exercise can provide a cheaper, less dangerous and more effective alternative to sleeping pills and their potential side effects when treating insomnia. When considering increasing physical activity, be sure to check with your doctor if you have any medical conditions that could result in injury when too intense of activity is attempted.

Bibliography:

1. National Sleep Foundation—Study: Physical Activity Impacts Overall Quality of Sleep; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/alert/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep

2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

3. Northwestern University—Aerobic Exercise Relieves Insomnia; http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2010/09/aerobic-exercise-relieves-insomnia.html

Sleep Fact #29

Regular exercise offers many benefits including:

  • increasing energy.
  • reducing stress.
  • improves immune system functioning.
  • allows you to eat more, because of improved metabolism.
  • strengthens the heart.
  • helps fall asleep, and stay asleep longer.