10 Practical Tips for Managing Your Sleep Apnea
Taking Back Quality Sleep for Yourself
We rely on sleep to leave us feeling refreshed, energetic, and ready to take on each new day with confidence. It’s during sleep that our body repairs itself, so it’s vital for both our physical and mental health. When you have sleep apnea, however, normal rest often doesn’t help you feel refreshed.
Instead, you can wake up still feeling exhausted despite your best efforts. It’s easy to feel frustrated and hopeless in this situation, but as we learn more about sleep apnea, we learn more ways to manage it and improve symptoms. This means there are steps you can take in your daily life to help you take back quality sleep, giving you the energy that you need to truly thrive.
To help you get started, we’ve put together 10 practical tips that you can use to manage your sleep apnea.
Seek an official diagnosis.
The first and most important step you should take if you suspect that you or your partner has sleep apnea is to schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist for official diagnosis. Specialists do this through a sleep study, which monitors your breathing, heart rate, and other vitals while you sleep.
Having a diagnosis is essential because it helps you take steps toward real sleep apnea treatment, which will make managing the condition much easier and will help you feel better. If you’re unsure who to see about your sleep apnea symptoms, your doctor or dentist may be able to refer you to a sleep specialist they’re familiar with.
Consider losing weight.
When it comes to managing sleep apnea, one of the most common recommendations from doctors is to lose weight. Not everyone with sleep apnea needs to lose weight, but it’s such a common recommendation because when you’re overweight, you’re more likely to have extra tissue in the back of your throat, which can collapse into your airway and block it while you sleep. Losing weight helps shrink or eliminate that extra tissue.
That said, we know that losing weight is so often easier said than done—especially with sleep apnea. You have to contend with fatigue as well as with your body’s natural responses to a lack of quality sleep. Without enough adequate rest, your body has a hard time regulating naturally occurring responses to stress and injury, such as inflammation.
The resulting chronic inflammation can make it more difficult to lose weight. This doesn’t mean it’s hopeless, though! It’s just one more reason why seeking an official sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment is essential. It helps you get the rest you need, cutting down on symptoms like fatigue and chronic inflammation so that it’s easier to lose weight.
Change up your sleeping position.
The position you sleep in at night can have a surprising impact on obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by your airways closing, often because the muscles in your tongue or throat relax too much when you fall asleep. Gravity then causes them to fall back slightly and block your airway.
Sleeping on your side instead of your back helps mitigate this, keeping your airway more open throughout the night. Raising your head to sleep at an incline using pillows or an adjustable bed can have a similar effect. While these solutions are incredibly simple, they can have a very real impact on your quality of sleep!
Smoking can lead to or worsen obstructive sleep apnea symptoms because it causes inflammation and irritation in your airway, causing it to narrow and making it easier to obstruct. There’s also some evidence that smoking impacts your sleep in other ways that can worsen sleep apnea, such as making it harder for you to rouse from sleep because you aren’t breathing, impairing the reflexes of muscles in the upper airway, and changing your natural sleep cycle.
As a result, quitting smoking can help improve all these things, relieving sleep apnea symptoms and helping you get better rest. Plus, the other health effects of smoking mean that quitting will help improve your overall health in so many ways. It’s a worthwhile change for many people, and there are many resources out there to help you quit!
Address any allergy issues.
Congestion and drainage caused by allergies make it harder to breathe through your nose, which can worsen your sleep apnea symptoms by increasing the frequency and length of apneas, or events where you stop breathing in your sleep. Addressing your allergies, using allergy medications, and seeing an allergist if necessary help your airways stay clear year round. As a result, it will also improve your sleep apnea symptoms, especially during allergy season.
Use a humidifier in your bedroom.
Using a humidifier in your room at night is an incredibly simple step, but it can improve sleep apnea symptoms in several ways. First, and perhaps most importantly, it adds moisture to the air, preventing the irritation caused by constantly breathing in dry air. Humidifiers can also be incredibly helpful for decreasing congestion, opening your airways, and easing your breathing in general, making it a great method to manage your sleep apnea, especially if you suffer from allergies.
Find out if you have malocclusion that is causing airway issues.
The position of your jaw is directly connected to your airway and how open it is. When your bite is aligned properly, its resting position allows the joints and muscles to rest completely while keeping your airway as open as possible. But when you have a malocclusion, also known as a misaligned bite, your jaw might rest in a position that restricts the airway instead.
In this case, orthodontics can produce long-term results by shifting your bite into a better position—one that keeps your airway open and makes it easier to breathe at night. If you aren’t sure whether malocclusion could be contributing to your sleep apnea, you can always call and schedule an appointment with your dentist to ask them about it.
Look into getting an oral appliance.
Oral appliances look much like mouth guards and are designed to be worn at night to reduce or eliminate mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. These appliances are customized for you and are designed to keep your airway open while you sleep by gently holding your jaw in its ideal position or preventing your tongue from falling back in your mouth.
Since they’re meant to be worn to bed, your dentist will craft it with comfort in mind. Many patients find that oral appliances are much more comfortable than CPAP machines as well as easier to maintain and travel with. This makes them a great alternative for many people! They aren’t an option for everyone, however, so if you’d like to learn more, it’s a good idea to schedule an evaluation with a Newport Beach dentist who offers them.
Evaluate your medications.
Certain medications, such as sedatives and narcotics, can relax the muscles around your airway more than usual. This makes the structures in and around your airway more likely to collapse and cause a blockage. Examining your medications and changing them up if necessary could help to prevent this, leading to fewer episodes of apnea during the night. Changing medications—especially prescriptions—is always a decision to be made carefully, however, so make sure to work carefully with your doctors to reach these decisions.
Use a CPAP.
CPAP machines are a common, well-known treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP keeps your airway open by supplying you with air through a mask that has a slightly higher air pressure than the surrounding air. It’s incredibly effective and is often the best treatment for severe sleep apnea that can’t be resolved or greatly improved using other methods. It may take a little getting used to, but CPAP machines can transform your life by reducing your symptoms and helping you get the quality rest you need.
Learn more about sleep apnea treatment from your Newport Beach dentist.
Thanks to methods like these, sleep apnea doesn’t have to rob you of quality sleep forever! By making some of these small changes and working with your sleep specialist and your dentist, you can transform your daily life, reclaiming the energy you need to take on each new day with enthusiasm. If you’d like to learn more about oral appliances or sleep apnea’s connection to malocclusion from a dentist in Newport Beach, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Desai at any time.