There are many reasons to hold your breath; a frightful situation, a moment of anticipation, but few cause you to stop breathing without knowing it. This is what people who live with sleep apnea deal with every night.
While asleep, pauses in breathing can last from a few seconds to minutes and often occur anywhere from five to thirty times per hour. Typically, normal breathing restarts itself from cues from your brain, sometimes offering up a loud snore or snort. Regrettably, once breathing resumes, it typically stops again with seconds or minutes.
Unfortunately, this chronic condition affords no period of genuine, restful sleep to the sufferer, leaving them feeling worn out and exhausted. And partners of people with sleep apnea have just as difficult a time, often waking themselves to ensure their partner is breathing, or to give them a sharp poke in the ribs to get them breathing again or to stop their loud snoring. It’s a strenuous battle every night just to get some rest.
Sleep apnea is a wearisome cycle that repeats night after night and can have serious consequences if not addressed. However, today’s modern medicine has developed some very effective treatments that help someone with sleep apnea breath normally throughout the night. And if you add some simple lifestyle changes to the mix, the condition of sleep apnea doesn’t have to ruin your life.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea (pronounced ap-nee-ah). This form of apnea is so named because part of the sleeper’s airway becomes blocked or collapses while sleeping causing shallow breathing or pauses in breathing altogether. Because your brain will always signal your body to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage causes loud noises or snoring.
Having said that, central sleep apnea occurs when the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn’t send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. As a result, you make no effort to breathe for brief periods of time.
How to Recognize Sleep Apnea
There are no tests to detect sleep apnea. However, once you or your partner begin to recognize the signs, you should discuss the possibility that you might be suffering from sleep apnea with your primary health care provider. The next question becomes, “how do I determine if I have a condition that only occurs when I’m asleep?” Likely as not, it will be your sleeping partner that alerts you to the majority of these signs:
- Loud, chronic snoring*.
- Noticeable pauses in snoring.
- Choking or gasping after a pause in breathing.
- A sudden, urgent, loud intake of air after a pause in breathing.
- Snoring gets louder when sleeping on your back; less noisy on your side.
- Excessive tiredness during the day; fighting to stay awake.
- Rapid onset of sleep during inactive moments during the day.
- Waking up exhausted; feeling like you haven’t slept.
- Morning headaches.
- Memory, concentration or learning problems.
- Nocturnal urination.
- A dry throat upon waking.
*It should be noted that not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
When you rest at night, your body has a chance to detoxify and repair itself. If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, this nocturnal rejuvenation doesn’t occur as effectively as if you’d slept soundly for eight hours. Therefore, if you’re not well rested, your body remains in a state of ill repair and it is likely you’ll contract more colds and flues (and take longer to get over them) than someone who’s getting serious shut eye.
Sleep apnea can also have a direct effect on other conditions such as blood pressure, stress, risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Treatments and Natural Solutions for Sleep Apnea
The whole goal of treating sleep apnea is to have you achieve a good night’s sleep so you can wake feeling rested and ready for the day.
Once you and your primary health care provider have determined that sleep apnea is likely occurring on a consistent basis, you could be sent to a sleep lab for evaluation. This evaluation usually includes a questionnaire for your sleep partner to fill in so that your health care provider can determine how best to treat your condition.
In cases of mild sleep apnea, sometimes all it takes are lifestyle changes to begin to remedy the situation. Occasionally, mouth pieces (sometimes referred to as oral appliances) are recommended to ensure you continue breathing normally throughout the night. These are generally custom made for you by an orthodontist.
Lifestyle changes include avoidance of alcohol, weight loss, sleeping on your side rather than your back, keeping your nasal passages open at night with sprays or medications and quitting smoking.
How do you stop yourself from rolling on your back? There are special pillows you can purchase that serve this purpose. You might think it sounds silly but sewing a pocket on to the back of your pajamas big enough to fit a tennis ball into is terribly effective at stopping you from rolling on to your back at night.
For moderate to severe cases, a breathing device might be prescribed. And in the most severe cases, shots to shrink excess tissue or surgery to remove excess tissue in the mouth or throat may be indicated.
The most common breathing device is known as a
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP machine.
This machine uses a mask, fitted over your nose
(and/or nose and mouth) to blow air into your throat,
forcing you to breathe. The air pressure is adjustable;
you need to determine an effective setting that
allows you to breathe and sleep comfortably at the same time.
Side effects of a CPAP machine include dry or stuffy nose, irritated skin on your face, dry mouth and headaches. Proper adjustment of the mask itself, and the flow of moisture from the mask, can solve these problems. Today, there are a few different types of CPAP machines to choose from. It takes a bit of getting used to, but wearing a CPAP at night can make all the difference to your day.
Immune system support is paramount. A good quality multi-vitamin with iron, including extra antioxidant support (vitamins A,C,E, and zinc) can help your body fight off colds and flues.
Try and maintain a balanced diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, green teas and whole grains and stay away from caffeine, fats, alcohol, processed foods and sugars. This fresh diet will also help you to either lose weight or maintain a healthy lower weight which can help make a difference to those living with sleep apnea.
Nutter’s Can Suggest
Royal Jelly contains all the B complex vitamins, including high concentrations
of vitamins B5 and B6, minerals, enzymes, hormones, amino acids and
vitamins A, C, D and E. Royal Jelly also contains acetylcholine, a substance
that allows messages to travel from one nerve to another. It has been used for
centuries as a nutritive tonic, to enhance immunity and may be
especially helpful for those with bronchial asthma, liver disease and
pancreatitis, insomnia, ulcers, skin disorders. 10-HDA and other fatty acids
found in royal jelly are strongly antibacterial and antifungal.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) root
is classified as an adaptogen, able to help the body adapt
to stress and restore balance. It is helpful for fatigue,
especially mental fatigue. Siberian ginseng supports and
enhances adrenal function and strengthens the immune system.
As an immune enhancer, Siberian ginseng may prevent colds and flu.
1. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice forany health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.