Sunday, April 29, 2007

Six Non-CPAP Ways to Treat Sleep Apnea at Home

Don't get me wrong, there is no substitute for CPAP when it comes to treating Sleep Apnea. The proper thing to do, if you suspect that you might have it, is to go to a sleep specialist and follow his instructions. He will probably recommend CPAP, surgery, or oral appliance therapy.

This list is not necessarily an alternative to CPAP, surgery, or oral appliances, but rather supplementary methods that decrease the probability of airway collapse. Usually these methods are not enough to entirely eliminate apnea. Again, talk to your doctor before attempting to treat sleep apnea. So here are the six ways:

1. Weight Loss - Unless you are extremely overweight AND your sleep apnea is mild, usually weight loss is not enough to entirely eliminate it. But it can definitely help. Weight loss is thought to improve apnea by changing the shape of the airway which decreases the probability of airway collapse.

2. Avoid Alcohol Before Bedtime - Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the airway, which worsens snoring and sleep breathing problems. The best advice is to abstain from alcohol, but if you insist on drinking make sure you leave sufficient time for your blood alcohol level to decrease to zero before going to bed.

3. Sleep On Your Side - Your bed partner may have already pointed this out to you: when you are on your side, your snoring improves. Sleeping on your back may increase the probability of airway collapse due to gravity's effect on the jaw and tongue.

4. Elevate the Head of the Bed - If you have sleep apnea, you may have noticed that you sleep better in your recliner. As with side-sleeping, it is thought that head elevation may improve sleep apnea by changing the conformation of the airway. A 30 to 60 degree elevation of the head of the bed may lead to improvement in sleep apnea.

5. Avoid Sleep Deprivation - There is evidence that sleep deprivation both prolongs breathing problems while sleeping and decreases the chances that you will wake-up from those problems. In other words, current scientific evidence suggests that sleep deprivation worsens sleep apnea. So get more sleep, and sleep breathing may improve.

6. External Nasal Dilation (Breathe Rite Strips) - May reduce severity of snoring but probably not effective at treating sleep apnea. If you think you might have sleep apnea, then you should talk to a sleep specialist. If he suggests that you wear CPAP then DO IT. However, while your waiting to get your CPAP machine, or if you want to enhance your treatment of sleep apnea, then the above methods may help.