The Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Lifestyle

sleep apnea,sleep apnea symptoms,sleep apnea treatment,obstructive sleep apnea, what is sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is not a sleeping problem it is an obstruction in the airway that causes loss of sleep. The typical treatment is the use of CPAP machines. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, so this means that air is forced into the airways to keep it open. What is happening behind the scenes with sleep apnea is a collapsing of the tissues in the back part of the sinus and throat area and it starts to atrophy. Atrophy is kind of a sagging or drooping of the tissue that can obstruct the breathing pathways and it can come from many different things. Some say it is caused by obesity but there’s plenty of thin people that have sleep apnea and a lot of overweight people that don’t have it so it’s not necessarily obesity. There could be some excess fat in the throat area, but we don’t normally accumulate fat in the back of the throat and sinus area.

Always consult with your healthcare practitioner first but there are some lifestyle changes that could have a positive impact on this condition. The first thing to tackle is a change in diet. You want to avoid milk and any milk products like ice cream, even cheese because dairy products will cause swelling in the throat and sinuses. Anything that creates inflammation will be a problem, so food allergies are a major issue. Sugar is a big problem because it will cause swelling of the different tissues because it is very inflammatory. Wheat or any other grains like bread, pasta, cereals, crackers, etc. can also be inflammatory. Removing dairy and wheat initially before doing anything else would be a good test to see if the sleep apnea clears up.

Seasonal allergies could be another contributing factor because your sinuses will clog up and of course there will be difficulty with breathing. If you have allergies, hives, asthma, or anything like that a good remedy to try would be royal jelly. Royal jelly is a milky secretion made by worker honeybees. It’s rich in carbs, protein, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Royal jelly gets its name because it is used as food for the queen bee. Its composition varies depending on geography and climate. It is known to help neutralize allergies.

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High cortisol correlates with high stress. High cortisol can also shrink a nerve that’s connected to your brain stem, that goes to the back of the sinuses. So, one of the symptoms of high cortisol, or being on Prednisone, or Cortisol for different conditions is sleep apnea. If this is the problem then try using a supplement that supports cortisol to reduce inflammation, supports the adrenal glands, and helps to support the deeper causes to reduce inflammation.

If you have allergies year around then there could be a fungus growing in  the sinuses. This could be because there might be a history of antibiotic use, but it could also come from other things. So, if that’s the case then working on your gut biome to build up the good bacteria will help.

Another recommendation is apple cider vinegar because just by dropping the pH of your body just a little bit (a teaspoon and some water everyday) will instantly increase your oxygen carrying capacity through your body and therefore you will breathe better.

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One more thing you could try if you are having a hard time breathing at night is to have plants in the room because it will increase oxygen in the room which will help you breathe and sleep better.

Top 4 Sleep Well Tips For Better Health

sleep well

Sleep is the most important aspect of self-care and yet so many people neglect it or simply just can’t sleep well. Think about it this way; If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then sleep is the kitchen you make your breakfast in. According to surveys such as the World Sleep Day Survey Report, and National sleep surveys such as The Great British Bedtime report; when it comes to sleep, most of us either:

  • Avoid it
  • Delay it
  • Not able to do it or get enough of it (due to multiple factors)

The biggest issues these surveys are reporting are:

  1. Adults are not getting enough sleep (particularly women)
  2. People do not have the appropriate routines to get to sleep

According to the World Sleep Day Survey Report (2018), adults recognize the importance of regular meal times and sticking to a morning routine to help them wake up. However, what is forgotten is a routine of getting to sleep and sticking to a regular bedtime. 

Finding A Solution To Sleep Well

So how do we correct this? We are all individuals, so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. However, there are a number of different processes that can be developed for an individual sleep routine that can suit your personal needs. Here are some basic rules that everyone should stick to.

a set bedtime
  1. Always Keep To A Fixed Bedtime

Having an irregular sleep time can be detrimental to your health. So although it may make you feel like a tall child, you need to have a set bedtime as well. Even if it’s the weekend and you don’t need to be ‘up in the morning’.

2. Electronic Device Free Zone

Making the last hour before bed as electronic device free time is very important. This means no;

  • Computer
  • TV
  • Ipad
  • Smartphone

During this time you could take part in relaxing activities such as;

This time is yours, free from any screens. When it’s dark in the evenings (and this will change according to the seasons), it can be helpful to add a blue light filter onto your phone.

blue light filter

Most phones come with this as standard now however you can also use a program called “f.lux” on computers which will work to reduce light from your screen. This will happen automatically according to the time of day and the season.

There’s a lot more to say on light and colour for aiding good sleep patterns, but I’ll stop there as blue light and its impact on our circadian rhythm is a topic I want to address with more detail in a future post. 

3. Bedtime Routine

Make sure that the bedroom is only used for sleep. Your brain is stupid. Not you specifically, all of our brains are dumb. It will associate the bedroom with being active if you work, watch TV, or do anything that is not relaxing in the bedroom. Keep that room as a place of rest.

4. Avoid Alcohol, Nicotine And Coffee

Although relaxing (apart from coffee!), these are all big no-nos for a good night slumber. They will keep you too stimulated to fall asleep. Alcohol will and does make you sleepy, but it disrupts your sleep-cycle so you are not getting quality sleep. 

In addition to these basic rules, there is a technique that can help some people but personally it does not work for me. If you cannot sleep, rather than lingering in bed unhappy, just get up for a bit and try to relax away from your bed.

Personally, for me this just makes me feel more irritated with the lack of sleep as I notice things around the house that I should have done. Or my cat wants to have lots of attention and I just end up thinking about things that are not helping me to rest.

However, I bring this up as this does work for some people and is often recommended so give this a try and see if it works for you.

sleep hygene

Final Thoughts

From these basic points we can develop our sleep routine to our individual needs. CBT activities and changing the way that you think about sleep can also help you get a better sleep.

There are a number of techniques that can help with this, and I will write about them in the future. However, I will tell you if your attitude to going to bed is similar to your 10 year old of  “5 more minutes”, you are not going to get a good night’s sleep.

You need to approach bed like Peter Pan with only Happy thoughts. Saying mantras (in your head, obviously, I’m sure any bed partners that you have would not appreciate this), such as: 

  • It feels good to be still and calm
  • I settle into my bed, my whole body is relaxed
  • My breath is deep, and slow, moving like the tide
  • It’s a relief to be this relaxed, to be in bed
  • This moment of peace is a gift and is my time

If you are able to monitor your thoughts or do a guided meditation, it can really help you get to sleep. Deep breathing and tensing and relaxing your body (Progressive Muscle relaxation) are all very effective at helping someone to get to sleep. Furthermore they are easily done once you are in bed. 

For information on “The Healthiest Sleep Postures”, click here.

Obviously, there is a lot of information to unpack. This is just an overview to get a discussion occurring with yourself. This is your self care. This is your time. Remember you deserve rest! Let’s start reducing the number of sheep we count. 

The Healthiest Sleep Postures

sleep well

How do you sleep? On your back? Belly? Or do you find you sleep well on your side? Everyone has their favorite sleeping position(s). It may change from time to time, however, if you’re an expecting mother or have specific health problems, the way you sleep may be limited.

In these cases, sleeping in the right posture can make the difference in how you feel when you wake up. Alternatively, sleeping in the wrong position can aggravate underlying problems like back or neck pain. Or even obstruct the airways to your lungs, leading to challenges like obstructive sleep apnea.

Most people are in bed 7-8 hours a night. It’s important to minimize postural stress on your body so that you can achieve quality sleep and wake up feeling good for the new day!

Here are some of the best sleeping postures you should try out to minimize stress on your body regardless if you suffer from a condition or not.

Side Sleeping

By far, this is the most common sleep position adopted by most people. A fetal or side sleeping position is great, especially on your left side if you’re expectant. It helps improve air flow in your body. Besides, it prevents you from pressing your uterus against the liver.

This position is also ideal for snorers. However, if you are curled up too tightly in this position it may restrict breathing in your diaphragm and may result in feeling a bit sore in the morning. Especially if you have spinal issues or arthritis.

To prevent these woes, be mindful of your body position when you lay down to sleep at night.

While laying on your side, only slightly bend your knees and try placing a pillow between them to help reduce stress on your pelvis and low back. Avoid tucking your chin onto your chest.

If you like sleeping on your front or find yourself starting your night on your side and waking up on your stomach, try placing a large or body pillow in front of your body. This will help keep you on your side and restrict you from rolling forwards onto your tummy.

Keep these things in mind when side sleeping:
  1. Use a pillow to support the neck and head. Check out this video on how to choose the right pillow when side sleeping.
  2. Place your knees slightly bent, up to 90 degrees, and place a pillow between your knees. You can fill in the extra space with a pillow to get additional support.

Back Sleeping

Sleeping on your back is traditionally considered one of the best sleeping positions for a healthy back. It evenly distributes your body weight and minimizes pressure on pain points. All while at the same time ensuring proper alignment of the neck, head, and spine.

Stick to using one pillow when sleeping on your back. To get additional support, you can place a small pillow under your knees. It helps maintain the natural curve of the spine.

If you are adopting this type of sleeping position, you should:
  1. Lie flat on your back while facing the ceiling. Caution you should not twist your head sideways. This may result in the joints in your neck being irritated and pain the next day.
  2. Use one small or thin pillow to support both the head and neck. Avoid using more than one pillow as this will tilt your head forward and can irritate your neck muscles and spinal discs.
  3. Position a small or thin pillow underneath your knees.
  4. For a more enjoyable night, you can fill the remaining space between the mattress and your body with additional pillows.

sleeping on your stomach

The BIG ‘No-no’ – Sleeping on Your Stomach!

Sleeping on your stomach is an ideal position for those who snore; but it comes with its risks. Although most adults like sleeping in this position, it can often lead to both neck and back pain.

Keeping your spine in a neutral position while relaxing in this position is hard; hence, explaining why it is not a recommended sleeping position. Sleeping on your stomach results in your head being rotated for hours which puts pressure on your joints and strains muscles, which can result in numbness and tingling, irritated nerves, and pain. The sleeping position is quite irritating, and your doctor would most likely agree that it’s a BIG “No-No”!

Pillow Talk: Is your pillow causing your pain?

How To Find The Right Pillow

Back Sleepers:

Your cervical “C” curve in your neck is small. When sleeping on your back, you can roll up a hand towel, t-shirt, use a small cervical support roll, or a thin pillow and fold up the edge into your cervical curve for support.

Side Sleepers:

If you are a side sleeper, pillow use is recommended. A common frustration amongst many is buying too many pillows that were never comfortable and ending up with a pile of eight uncomfortable but now decorative pillows on the guest bed and a sore neck for themselves every morning. The tricky part is there is no perfect pillow for everyone. Everybody has a different shoulder to neck measurement. We encourage to use the “pillow test” to find the right pillow for you.

Pillow Test

Pillow Test

Stand with one shoulder against the wall. Place the pillow between the wall and your neck. Completely relax your neck and shoulders allowing your head to fall gently into the pillow against the wall.

Do not push your head into the pillow, simply let gravity take its course and rest against it. Your head should not be tilted. There should only be a lateral shift in your neck of two to three inches. If there is a larger shift, than the spine is being stressed and this isn’t the pillow for you. If you find that there is no lateral movement of your head, the pillow is too thick and can cause awkward postural stress on the spine as well.

Tonight, I wish you the best sleep posture and all it brings; quality, uninterrupted sleep and a refreshed great start to tomorrow!

For further reading, click here to view, “Ten Tricks To Get The Best Sleep EVER!”