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How to prevent sleep apnea

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  • Whether symptoms of sleep apnea are manifesting or not, preventive measures are vital to address this condition in its early stages
  • Preventing sleep apnea may be done by learning about proper breathing techniques and ideal foods you should include in your diet
  • Making positive lifestyle changes may play a role in reducing your sleep apnea risk

You can prevent sleep apnea long before it affects you by implementing measures that promote positive changes to different aspects of your physical health, such as breathing, diet and lifestyle.

Importance of proper breathing

The Buteyko Breathing method, named after the Russian physician who developed this technique, is a powerful approach for addressing breathing-related problems such as sleep apnea. The Buteyko Breathing method entails learning to breathe through the nose instead of your mouth. Optimal oxygenation of tissues and organs, including the brain, can be achieved when you stop mouthbreathing and try to normalize your breathing volume.

A healthy diet is crucial in avoiding sleep apnea

Eating the right foods is important if you want to avoid sleep apnea. Avoid consuming processed foods because they tend to acidify your blood, making it difficult to maintain normal pH levels. In turn this may trigger heavy breathing that may result in chronic overbreathing.

Researchers have also linked improvements in sleep apnea to a combination of physical activity and a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on consuming foods rich in healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and nuts.1 With this theory, it may be ideal to adapt a ketogenic diet that focuses on eating healthy and high-quality fat-rich foods, organic, GMO-free vegetables and grass fed meats, while avoiding intake of grains, processed foods and refined sugar and fructose.

The link between breastfeeding and reduced sleep apnea risk

Research has linked breastfeeding to lowered risk for sleep apnea among children.2,3 As such, if you're pregnant, consider breastfeeding for at least six months after birth. Breastfeeding may help your baby breathe better and have a lower sleep apnea risk since it assists in expanding the size of the soft palate and moves the jaw forward.

In an article published in the German magazine Das Schlafmagazin, Kansas City-based dentist Brian Palmer suggests avoiding use of baby bottles and pacifiers because they push the tongue back and potentially:4

“ … [Cause] a pre-mature separation of the epiglottis and soft palate and reduce the protective airway function of this relationship ... Pacifiers, bottle-feeding and excessive infant habits can definitely alter the swallowing pattern which can cause the malocclusions that put individuals at risk for snoring and developing obstructive sleep apnea.”

Also, don’t allow your child to use a regular spouted cup because it not only won’t encourage the tongue to rest, but will disallow the soft palate from forming properly and developing in the child’s airway. To learn more about the advantages of breastfeeding in lowering a child’s sleep apnea risk, read this article.

Can sleep posture prevent sleep apnea?

Your sleeping habits may play a role in preventing this condition. The Mayo Clinic advises sleeping on your side or abdomen instead of your back, as there’s a tendency for your tongue and soft palate to relax against the back of your throat and obstruct your airway.

If you’re used to sleeping on your back, sew a tennis ball on the back of your pajama top to prevent you from going back to this position,5 or try to lift your upper body by using foam wedges. Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center advises against using soft pillows, as they can cause your chin to move toward the chest and worsen your condition.6

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Lifestyle changes you can consider to prevent sleep apnea

There are other lifestyle changes you should consider to help lower sleep apnea risk:7,8

  • Strive to lose excess weight — Authors of a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine revealed that weight loss interventions may help lessen obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) severity, lessen risk for cardiometabolic problems and enhance quality of life.9
  • Exercise — Studies have shown that exercise lessens the severity of OSA10 and daytime sleepiness.11
  • Avoid smoking This habit may trigger upper airway inflammation and increased fluid retention.
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol and taking tranquilizers and sleeping pills — They’re known to disrupt breathing as they may relax muscles found at the back of your throat.
  • Gargle with salt water — You can help shrink your tonsils temporarily if you do this on a regular basis.

Sleep apnea can be a potentially severe issue that can negatively affect how much rest you can get on a daily basis. Keeping these tips in mind may aid you in reducing your sleep apnea risk and hopefully address the condition quickly.

MORE ABOUT SLEEP APNEA

Sleep Apnea: An Introduction

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep Apnea Causes

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep Apnea Testing

Sleep Apnea Surgery

Sleep Apnea Prevention

Sleep Apnea FAQ



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