How to Sleep with Sleep Apnea?

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There is no doubt that sleep is an essential part of our lives. It is important to get enough sleep in order to keep our bodies and minds healthy. There are many people including older adults struggle to get a good night's sleep, but sleep apnea can make this nearly impossible.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by a number of episodes during the night in which people stop breathing for a brief period of time. There are typically 20–30 pauses in breathing each sleeping hour, lasting between 10 and 120 seconds. This can lead to fatigue as well as other health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

As a result of these episodes, your sleep cycle is affected. Your blood oxygen levels drop at night, so you might wake up with a headache, lack of focus, or cognitive issues.

If you are struggling with sleep apnea, there are a few things you can do to improve your sleep and quality of life. As a sleep specialist, here are my tips on how to sleep with sleep apnea and breathe easier at night.

Follow the sleep schedule

Following a regular sleep schedule is part of good sleep hygiene. Every person should incorporate it into their sleep routine, but for patients who suffer from sleep apnea, it becomes even more important.

Set a bedtime and waking up time and follow it religiously.

It helps to regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Overall it improves sleep quality.

Sleeping Position

Studies have shown that people with sleep apnea who are not obese can benefit most from changing their sleeping positions.

In some people, sleeping on their back may result in a worsening of sleep apnea because of their body position.

As a result of this position, the tissues in their throat collapse and block their airway, resulting in breathing disruptions. Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and other soft tissues in your mouth and throat to fall back and obstruct your airways.

Sleeping on your side can help reduce the likelihood of this happening and may improve your breathing during sleep. It is because when you sleep on your side, your mouth and throat tissues are less likely to fall back and obstruct your breathing. 

The best sleeping position for sleep apnea varies from person to person. Some people may also find that sleeping on their stomach is the most comfortable and effective way to manage their sleep apnea symptoms as compared to sleeping on their back.

See what works best for you by trying different sleeping positions.

Use a Pillow

Using an appropriate pillow can also improve your sleep and reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. It will help to keep your airways open and unobstructed while you sleep. This can improve your breathing and reduce the likelihood of experiencing pauses in breathing or shallow breathing.

With side sleepers with sleep apnea, pillows can help keep the airways open by supporting the head and neck. You're in a more natural position when you sleep on your side, so you're less likely to have collapsed airways that cause sleep apnea.

A thick pillow for side sleepers will support the head and neck evenly, keeping the airways open and preventing them from becoming blocked. As a result, sleep apnea symptoms like loud snoring and feeling tired or groggy in the morning are reduced.

On the other hand, back sleepers and stomach sleepers should opt for thin pillows so that their spine is aligned in a neutral position.

The wedge pillow is another option that can be beneficial for sleep apnea sufferers.

Use CPAP mask

CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, masks are often used as a treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. They're worn over the nose and mouth during sleep and help keep the airway open by supplying steady air.

The CPAP machine has a motor that draws in air from the room and passes it through a filter to remove any impurities. The air is then pressurized by the machine and delivered through the mask to the airway. 

Opt for a CPAP machine with a heated humidifier if you experience a dry or stuffed nose at night.

Overall, a CPAP mask can be a highly effective treatment for sleep apnea, provided you have the right mask and machine that suits you.

Relieving nasal congestion

Nasal congestion can cause the person to have shallow breathing or even brief pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to fragmented sleep and daytime sleepiness. 

To get relief, you can try using over-the-counter nasal decongestants or saline nasal sprays or sleeping with your head elevated using a pillow, or switching to an adjustable bed. 

Additionally, using a humidifier can help with snoring.

Weight Loss

Men are more like to have sleep apnea as compared to women. In spite of this, many studies show obese men and women are more likely to develop sleep apnea than those who are not obese. 

if you are suffering from any type of sleep apnea and want to improve your quality of life, reducing weight and fat deposits can help you immensely.

Consult a nutritionist to make necessary changes in your diet.

Quit smoking

Smoking is another factor that elevates symptoms. It causes inflammation and swelling of the upper airway which makes it more difficult for the air to pass through.

In the case of smokers, quitting smoking will help you to better manage your condition.


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