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Struggling with sleep apnea can be challenging, but there are effective ways of beating it.

Beating Sleep Apnea

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Healthier, Natural Sleep Without Obstruction!

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the sleep disorder in which one periodically stops breathing (and thus wakes up) repeatedly through the night, affects about 25% of men and 10% of women:

Prevalence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome: A Single-Center Retrospective Study

Why the gender split?

There are clues that suggest it is at least partially hormonal: once women have passed menopause, the gender split becomes equal.

Are there other risk factors?

There are few risk other factors; some we can’t control, and some we can:

  • Being older is riskier than being younger
  • Being overweight is riskier than not being overweight
  • Smoking is (what a shock) riskier than not smoking
  • Chronic respiratory diseases increase risk, for example:
    • Asthma
    • COPD
    • Long COVID*—probably. The science is young for this one so far, so we can’t say for sure until more research has been done.
  • Some hormonal conditions increase risk, for example:

*However, patients already undergoing Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment for obstructive sleep apnea may have an advantage when fighting a COVID infection:

Prolonged Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sleep Medicine Services—Longitudinal Data from the Swedish Sleep Apnea Registry

What can we do about it?

Avoiding the above risk factors, where possible, is great!

If you are already suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, then you probably already know about the possibility of a CPAP device; it’s a mask that one wears to sleep, and it does what its name says (i.e. it applies continuous positive airway pressure), which keeps the airway open.

We haven’t tested these, but other people have, so here are some that the Sleep Foundation found to be worthy of note:

Sleep Foundation | Best CPAP Machines of 2024

What can we do about it that’s not CPAP?

Wearing a mask to sleep is not everyone’s preferred way to do things. There are also a plethora of surgeries available, but we’ll not review those, as those are best discussed with your doctor if necessary.

However, some lifestyle changes can help, including:

  • Lose weight, if overweight. In particular, having a collar size under 16” for women or under 17” for men, is sufficient to significantly reduce the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Stop smoking, if you smoke. This one, we hope, is self-explanatory.
  • Stop drinking alcohol, or at least reduce intake, if you drink. People who consume alcohol tend to have more frequent, and longer, incidents of obstructive sleep apnea. See also: How To Reduce Or Quit Drinking
  • Avoid sedatives and muscle relaxants, if it is safe for you to do so. Obviously, if you need them to treat some other condition you have, talk this through with your doctor. But basically, they can contribute to the “airway collapses on itself” by reducing the muscular tension that keeps your airway the shape it’s supposed to be.
  • Sleep on your side, not your back. This is just plain physics, and a matter of wear the obstruction falls.
  • Breathe through your nose, not through your mouth. Initially tricky to do while sleeping, but the more you practice it while awake, the more it becomes possible while asleep.
  • Consider a nasal decongestant before sleep, if congestion is a problem for you, as that can help too.

For more of the science of these, see:

Cultivating Lifestyle Transformations in Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are more medical options available not discussed here, too:

American Sleep Apnea Association | Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Take care!

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