What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs because your breathing during sleep is continuously interrupted. It has serious consequences if left untreated. Home remedies for sleep apnea can prove effective for mild to moderate cases.

Once confirmed, your doctor will start treatment, which may be conservative or surgical. However, for relief from mild cases and even for early moderate cases, you could start adopting certain natural remedies and make changes to your lifestyle.

Breathing can be interrupted due to the intermittent blockage of the upper part of the airway due to certain local causes such as the collapse of the sagging soft tissues of the soft palate, blocked nose, enlarged tonsils, or adenoids, and more. This type is called obstructive sleep apnea, signifying obstruction of the upper airway. It is characterized by loud snoring.

The interrupted breathing can also be due to central causes arising in the brain or heart. In this type of apnea called central apnea, the brain fails to send signals to the respiratory muscles to contract and expand, which is essential for respiration. In the absence of these signals, breathing suffers.

Once diagnosed, the importance of sleep apnea treatment, whether it be obstructive or central, can be gauged from the serious health complications that can arise if it is left untreated.

Sudden death can occur because of these complications and therefore treating sleep apnea becomes essential. 

Statistics show that only 10% of the cases undergo treatment while the rest of the 90% do not know that they have sleep apnea or do not seek treatment.

It is, therefore, necessary to suspect this sleep disorder from your apnea symptoms such as loud snoring and a feeling of drowsiness during the next day.

Your sleep specialist will conduct a sleep study called polysomnography and proceed with the diagnosis to confirm sleep apnea.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your health provider will refer you to an ENT surgeon to rule out any blockage in your nose and throat that could be disturbing your breathing.

If you are suspected of having central sleep apnea (CSA), a cardiologist and neurologist will look for any cardiac or neurology cause.

There are several options, conservative and surgical that treat this sleep disorder and each is used according to its indications.

The best way to begin is to start treating your mild to moderate sleep apnea and snoring with home remedies that help the cure in a natural fashion without CPAP.

Home remedies to cure sleep apnea and snoring naturally without CPAP

Helping yourself with lifestyle changes is effective to cure sleep apnea of mild nature. The following lifestyle adaptations are called for if you have mild symptoms.

1. Losing weight

Obesity is a known contributing factor in sleep apnea. If you are overweight or obese, losing the excess weight can correct mild to moderate sleep apnea cases.

Weight loss can open up the throat due to the loss of fat in the neck and significantly improve symptoms. Losing even 10% of the excess weight can improve your symptoms by 25%. This implies the importance of this natural remedy.

2. Quitting smoking

Smoking causes inflammation and fluid retention in the neck and upper part of the airway. This inflammation causes the soft tissues around the airway to swell and compress and obstruct the passage of air.

Smokers are three times more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking is a very important lifestyle change, which significantly improves your symptoms.

3. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol causes airway muscles to relax. This leads to their collapse, which partially occludes your airway. Consuming alcohol may aggravate obstructive sleep apnea and increase the severity of its symptoms. A person with OSA is prone to having more and longer-lasting breathing disturbances after drinking alcohol.

4. Avoid sleeping aids pills and sedatives

Sleeping pills and other sleep aids cause the throat and airway muscles to relax. This leads to the collapse of the airway, which hinders your breathing.

Sleeping pills also suppress breathing, which can worsen sleep apnea 

5. Avoid caffeine and a heavy meal

You should avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea for at least six hours before going to bed. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and will not allow you to sleep easily.

Avoid large, high-fat meals two hours before bedtime. Eating a large meal close to bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep.

A heavy meal will burden your digestive system and make you feel uncomfortable making falling asleep difficult.

6. Sleep on your side or abdomen and avoid sleeping on your back

Our aim is to avoid the soft palate tissues and the tongue from falling back and occluding the airway lumen. Sleeping on the back will do just that.

Sleeping on your side will prevent the soft palate and tongue from falling to the back of your throat. This measure will help to keep the throat and airway open.

Use a pillow or keep a tennis ball sewn to the back of your pajama top to prevent you from sleeping on the back.

7. Keep your head end up

See to it that when you sleep, your head is 4 to 6 inches above the waist. The use of a special or cervical pillow will help.

8. Keep your nasal passages open

Open nasal passages will ensure proper breathing. You could use nasal sprays before going to bed to ensure this.

Nasal steroid sprays open up your nostrils, reduce mouth breathing, and increase nasal breathing at night. This significantly reduces your snoring.

9. Throat exercises involving the tongue and soft palate

Tongue and soft palate exercises will help to strengthen the muscles of the palate and airway preventing its collapse. This is one of the most important home remedies for sleep apnea and should be religiously adhered to.

Such exercises will reduce the severity of the OSA symptoms reports the American Journal of Sleep and Respiratory Critical Medicine.

These exercises involve suction, chewing, swallowing, breathing, and speech and you should perform them every day for about 20 minutes.

10. Foods to eat for sleep apnea

Avoid spicy, oily, and heavy meals at night. There are some foods that help you sleep well. Incorporate them into your dinner every night in a rotation fashion.

If you are overweight or obese, you should be on foods that will help you to lose weight.

11. Medication for sleep apnea

Usually, medicines are not prescribed for treating obstructive sleep apnea. Medicines are mainly given to treat its underlying cause.

It could be an infected and enlarged tonsil or a nasal infection in which case antibiotics may be necessary.

In cases of central sleep apnea, medicines become necessary to treat the cause such as heart disease or a neurological disorder.

Medicines may also be prescribed to reduce daytime sleepiness when CPAP reduces the number of apneas but daytime sleepiness continues.

The FDA of the United States has approved wakefulness-promoting medicines, which are used for patients on CPAP with daytime sleepiness. Examples of such drugs include Modafinil (brand name Provigil) and Armodafinil (Nuvigil).

12. Supplemental oxygen support

Giving oxygen during sleep to supplement the lowered blood oxygen levels may help in cases of central sleep apnea. However, this therapy does have its pros and cons and your sleep specialist will decide whether it is useful for you or not.