Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s upper airways become partially or entirely blocked. This obstruction causes the person to experience pauses in breathing while they sleep, usually due to the relaxation of the muscles in the back of the throat. These are the muscles that help keep the airways open.
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. In people with central sleep apnea, breathing disruption relates to brain function, and it is usually a symptom of a severe illness.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated 18 million adults and 10–20% of children who snore in the United States have obstructive sleep apnea.
Those with moderate or severe sleep apnea should seek medical treatment to avoid complications, including heart disease and high blood pressure.
People with mild sleep apnea may also benefit from medical treatment, but the evidence on this subject remains inconclusive. There is no clear cutoff point for classifying sleep apnea as severe rather than moderate and determining whether it requires medical treatment.
The following are some natural remedies that a person can use at home, usually to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea.
- Weight loss techniques
For some people, carrying excess body weight can increase the likelihood of sleep apnea. In particular, excess fat in or around the neck can potentially impair a person’s breathing and worsen sleep apnea.
Losing excess weight could be an excellent first step in treating obstructive sleep apnea. Some steps that a person can take to lose weight include:
- reducing the intake of processed and fast foods
- engaging in regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day
- minimizing the consumption of high sugar beverages
- Healthful lifestyle changes
In addition to lifestyle changes that promote weight loss, other health changes could help a person reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
Some examples of healthful lifestyle changes include:
- refraining from smoking, which can lead to swelling in the upper airways, resulting in sleep apnea
- refraining from drinking alcohol as it can relax the throat muscles and increase the likelihood of snoring
- taking over-the-counter allergy medications or nasal decongestants to increase airflow by reducing swelling and fluid buildup in the nasal passages
These habits can help reduce the number of apnea episodes and the associated symptoms in some people with sleep apnea.
- Side sleeping position
One of the most common approaches to home remedies for sleep apnea is a body positioning pillow or similar device. These positioners work by keeping a person from sleeping on their back. People who have obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have episodes when they sleep on their back.
One example is a side sleeping backpack, a vest-like clothing item with a bulging part on the back. If a person tries to roll over onto their back when wearing the bag, they cannot maintain the position and must turn to one side.
Some people may prefer to make their positioner by securing a tennis ball or another item onto their back that keeps them from turning while sleeping.
However, in a small study, half of the participants snored more frequently when using the positioner. Chronic snoring can damage the tissues in the upper airways, so this may not be a good solution for everyone.
4.Raise the head of the bed
Sleeping with the head of the bed at an angle of about 60 degrees may help reduce the number of apnea episodes. This solution may be effective for people who have sleep apnea that worsens when they lie on their back but find it difficult to sleep on their side.
People will achieve this position by sleeping in a bed or chair that has an adjustable upper portion. Alternatively, they can use pillows or purchase a body wedge for their torso to keep their head elevated.
5.Oral or dental appliances
Another home remedy for sleep apnea is wearing an oral device that holds the tongue or jaw in a specific position to help facilitate better breathing.
Causes of obstructive sleep apnea
Doctors have identified several factors that contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. These include:
- being aged 40 years and older
- being overweight
- having a family history of sleep apnea
- heavy alcohol consumption
- having a large overbite
- having a large tongue, tonsils, or uvula
- having a small jaw
Most people who have obstructive sleep apnea snore. They may have a partner or loved one who tells them that they snore loudly. Even if a person with sleep apnea does not snore, they may experience other symptoms, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, problems concentrating, or memory problems.
A person may wish to discuss their symptoms with a doctor, who usually recommends a sleep study. The study may require the person to spend the night at a unique facility. Medical professionals will monitor how often they stop breathing while sleeping and their oxygen saturation and heart rate. However, home sleep tests are also a possibility and are increasing in use.
A person should note that snoring does not necessarily mean that they have sleep apnea.
Although snoring is an indicator of sleep apnea, a sleep study can help a doctor determine whether a person has enough episodes of disordered breathing, or stoppages in breathing, for sleep apnea to be present.
Sleep apnea is a condition that can affect a person’s quality of life and physical health.
Home remedies, such as healthful lifestyle changes and elevating the head at night, may help reduce apnea episodes.
However, if a person has moderate or severe sleep apnea, they should see a doctor. They will probably need to wear a CPAP device to support their breathing.