Sleep Apnea

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Certain patients with mild sleep apnea may be managed without CPAP or surgery. These measures may also help people who are pursuing other treatments.

Weight
People who are overweight are more likely to develop sleep apnea. Therefore, maintaining an ideal weight is important in managing sleep apnea. Before starting a diet or exercise program, talk with your doctor about your plan to make sure it is safe. Losing weight can reduce symptoms of sleep apnea.

Sleeping Position
Some people breathe better and snore less loudly when sleeping on their sides or stomach. There are simple techniques to keep you from sleeping on your back, including sewing a tennis ball to the back of your pajama top, wearing a soft backpack at night, or placing a pillow under a shoulder.

Products to avoid
Alcohol, smoking, and certain medicines that make you sleepy can all make sleep apnea worse. Sedatives can make it harder for you to wake you up when you stop breathing, which makes the pauses in breathing longer. Smoke irritates the tissue in your nose and throat, which can make the airway more likely to collapse while you are asleep.

Over-the-counter products
There is little scientific evidence that various nasal sprays and nasal strips that are sold to limit snoring have any significant effect on obstructive sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if you plan to use these products.

Adopting good sleeping habits may improve the quality of your sleep, whether or not you have sleep apnea.

Good sleep habits

The first step in managing a sleep disorder is good sleep hygiene, or practicing good sleep habits. Here are some sleep hygiene tips to improve the quality of your sleep:

  • Maintain a regular bedtime and arising time. This includes weekends and vacations.
  • Avoid taking long naps during the day. Napping in the late afternoon or early evening can disturb nighttime sleep.
  • Alcohol can interfere with sleep. Avoid alcohol within three to four hours of bedtime. Alcohol can lead to repeated awakenings during the latter part of the night.
  • Caffeine and nicotine can interfere with sleep. Drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea, and soda) and nicotine have an arousing effect, causing a disruption in sleep.
  • Common medicines can cause excessive sleepiness or insomnia. Ask your doctor which medicines to avoid if you are having sleep problems.
  • Avoid stimulating activities late in the evening. Exercise and mental activities can keep you awake.
  • Ongoing concerns can lead to insomnia. Plan a few minutes each evening to write down your concerns. Schedule activities for the following day. This allows one to "put an end" to the extended workday.
  • Activities in bed should be restricted to those that promote sleep. Some people find reading or relaxing useful.
  • The bedroom environment may be overlooked as a cause of sleep disturbance. Although many people feel they fall asleep quickly while watching television, the bright lights may disrupt sleep. Other sources of light such as hallway fixtures or street lamps may have a similar effect. The level of acceptable bedroom light is different for each individual. While many people prefer the bedroom to be kept very dark, others, especially those fearful of the dark, may find comfort in a dim light. The bedroom should be kept quiet. If bright light or noise cannot be avoided, earplugs and eye masks may be helpful. The temperature in the bedroom should be comfortable. "Clock watchers" who become alarmed as the seconds and minutes tick away while they remain awake should remove the clock from the bedroom

Remember, good sleep hygiene is the first step in managing a sleep disorder.

Last reviewed on 09/20/2006

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