**Continued from last month's article on Sleep Apnea**
7 Ways To Address Sleep Apnea
Today, we take a closer look at ways to address this sleep disorder and its symptoms. There are many options available to help address apnea, including lifestyle measures to lose weight and simple medical devices that can be worn at night to keep the airways open. Dr. Weil recommends these tactics for tackling sleep apnea:
- If you’re overweight, focus on the excess pounds. According to the American Sleep Foundation, even a 10 percent weight loss can reduce the nightly breathing interruptions.
- Avoid alcohol in the evening and night leading up to bedtime.
- Talk to your pharmacist and doctor about the side effects from any medications you are taking.
- Transition from the use of sleeping pills. Consider lower side effect options such as meditation, a small dose of melatonin, or seek out counsel from an integrative medicine provider to discuss herbal options.
- Develop good sleep habits, including sleeping on your side, minimizing the use of screens leading up to sleep, and developing – and sticking with – a bedtime and sleep schedule. Try sleeping in a 100% completely dark room. If you have small and seemingly insignificant lights from electronic devices, you may be surprised how they can impact your sleep.
- Find a dentist that specializes in sleep. Some dentists can provide you with a thorough airway evaluation and determine if an oral appliance might be an option for you.
- Get a sleep evaluation. This used to require spending a night in a sleep facility, during which brain waves, eye movement, breathing and other vital functions are monitored. Now some sleep specialists utilize at home testing for several nights in a row to fully evaluate your sleep in your typical environment. Ask your doctor about options for evaluation.
In addition, use this opportunity to focus on lifestyle improvement through a focus on a whole foods diet, regular moderate exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.
Wondering About Sleep Apnea? 4 Symptoms To Recognize
Sleep apnea, also called obstructive sleep apnea, is a disorder that interrupts normal breathing during sleep. Symptoms include:
- Heavy snoring
- Periods of not breathing
- Waking frequently during the night or experiencing fitful or restless sleep
- Feeling sleepy or not well-rested during the day
Depending on how often and for how long you stop breathing, sleep apnea can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. It affects both men and women, can occur at any age, and has been linked to an increased risk of fragmented sleep and restlessness, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Even mild sleep apnea can cause sleep disturbances, leading to depression, irritability, sexual problems and impaired learning and memory.
Common factors linked to sleep apnea include being overweight or obese; having an anatomical abnormality in the nose, throat or elsewhere in the upper airway; use of certain medications, particularly sedatives; sleeping on your back; and using alcohol before bed.
There are many patients I have cared for over the years that have benefitted greatly, and almost immediately from identifying and treating their sleep apnea.
Asking your doctor to order an overnight oximetry can be a good screening test to assess sleep apnea. This test occurs while sleeping at home. The gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea is the hospital-based sleep testing, but the home test can help point you in the right direction. Now there are some three-night, in-depth at-home test and app-based digital assessments that some specialists will use over the hospital version. All good discussion items with your doctor.