Slumber Soundly With Tricks Doctors Don’t Tell
Waking without feeling refreshed is a bummer. And when it happens more than once in a while it can turn into a big problem. Of course simply not allowing enough time for adequate sleep can be one cause of feeling tired when waking, but for many people the cause is something else entirely. For many people - men in particular - the way in which they breathe - or don’t breathe while sleeping can dramatically lower the quality of sleep, producing potentially serious health problems.
What makes this condition interesting is that many men may suffer from it and not even know. However, if you are frequently waking up unrefreshed there is a high likelihood that you are suffering from it. Some of the symptoms that can be caused by breathing problems at night include the obvious ones such as excessive daytime sleepiness. But some of the other symptoms can be harder to link to poor quality sleep. Those symptoms include diabetes, depression, and hypertension, among others - all things that decrease when breathing at night improves.
Doctors give the condition the name sleep apnea, which literally means stopped breathing while sleeping. The most common type of sleep apnea, and the sort that we’ll address in this article, is called obstructive sleep apnea, which means that breathing stops for short intervals due to physical obstruction when the throat or tongue sag and close off the airway. When this happens the breath pauses for a moment until the airway is forced back open, which often is accompanied by sounds which we call snoring. In other words, if you snore, that’s a major give away that you’ve got sleep apnea. (It’s worth noting that not all cases of sleep apnea involve obvious snoring, but snoring is almost always associated with sleep apnea.)
What Do Doctors Prescribe?
Doctors recognize that sleep apnea is a serious condition. The most common “solution” offered by doctors is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which involves wearing a mask over the nose that forces air pressure into the airway in order to keep it open. Doctors may also suggest that you avoid alcohol and sedatives in the evening, which would be good advice since those have been shown to increase the likelihood of sleep apnea. So has smoking, so quitting that habit can have a positive effect.
However, regarding CPAP machines, they can prevent apnea, of course, and they don’t necessarily pose as a danger. However, they are cumbersome and they do nothing to address the causes of the condition in the first place. Of course, if you enjoy feeling like Darth Vadar and being attached to a machine while you sleep for the rest of your life, then such a device is perfect for you. But if you’re the sort of person who wants to be able to get quality sleep without being dependent upon a machine, read on for some ways in which you can naturally improve your sleep time breathing.
Change Your Sleeping Position
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat or tongue sag and close the airway. This is likely to happen only when sleeping on the back. Therefore, in many cases it is possible to entirely remedy sleep apnea by avoiding sleeping on the back. Sleeping on the sides or even on the abdomen is preferred for anyone who suffers from sleep apnea.
Unfortunately, many people unconsciously end up on their backs in the middle of the night even if they start out on their side, producing the conditions for sleep apnea. However, the good news is that often a simple change can solve that problem.
One of the most effective techniques for preventing yourself from rolling over onto your back (and staying there) is to place something on your back that will be uncomfortable should you roll onto it. An inexpensive way to do this is to place a tennis ball into a sock and then attach the sock to the back of a shirt and wear the shirt to sleep. Should you roll onto your back, the tennis ball will be a gentle yet uncomfortable reminder not to stay in that position. Or, should you prefer a ready-made solution, you can find some produced and sold by various manufacturers.
Get Lean to Breathe Better
If you’ve got some extra fat on you, that can contribute to sleep apnea. Excess fat is strongly associated with increased risk of and fat loss is associated with a decrease in symptoms. In fact, many men report that losing a few pounds completely reverses the condition.
The trouble is that most men are conditioned to believe that the way to lose fat is to eat less or exercise more, and when done incorrectly both of those activities can actually result in a decrease in lean muscle mass and a relative increase in fat. That’s because under eating and over exercise can produce a catabolic state (a breakdown of muscle), which is definitely not what you want.
To lose fat safely while maintaining muscle mass and hormone balance, it is best to do the following: sleep enough, learn to manage stress, and do exercises that increase muscle mass.
The types of exercise that increase muscle mass are resistance exercises with heavy weight and high intensity interval training. The key to doing the right types of exercise is that they should be high intensity and short duration. Each workout should be no more than half an hour, and at least a day of rest should be allowed between workouts. Also, doing exercise with good form and with safety in mind is important to avoid injury.
Strengthen Your Mouth
Believe it or not, you can actually strengthen and train the appropriate muscles of your mouth and throat in order to prevent sleep apnea. There are a number of exercises that are recommended for reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, and some studies have found that these sorts of exercises can greatly reduce sleep apnea. Here is a sampling:
- Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and slide the tip of the tongue from front to back and back to front
- Gargle for 5 minutes
- Make 5 “ah” sounds, pausing between each
- Hold a pencil between your teeth for ten minutes or as long as you can
Another option might be to play a reed instrument such as an oboe or bassoon. Okay, maybe that’s not something you’re actually likely to do, but it turns out that researchers have found that reed instrument players have low incidences of sleep apnea. Those who play didgeridoos also have better nighttime breathing.
If nothing else works, a mouth appliance similar to a mouth guard such as worn by athletes, but designed specially to prevent sleep apnea, may be of help. Such devices pull the lower jaw slightly forward, preventing the airway from closing. These devices are reportedly fairly effective, but they have a few downsides. For one thing, you have to go to a specialist who can fit you for one. That means they cost a pretty penny. And for another thing, although pulling the lower jaw forward slightly may be better than sleep apnea, it’s not ideal to train your lower jaw to produce a malocclusion, meaning a poor meeting of the jaw and teeth.
Follow these guidelines and you’re sure to find relief from sleep apnea. When you do, you will find that you wake more refreshed and you feel better throughout the day. It can even reduce your risk of diseases and help you to live a healthier, happier life.