Lifestyle and Sleep Apnea

Burds_InternalPhotos_Lifestyle&SleepApneaEnhancing Your Sleep Apnea Treatment

Moving forward with treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is one of the best decisions you can make for you overall health and quality of life. As blood oxygen levels return to normal and mind and body are refreshed through restful sleep, many sleep apnea appliance wearers report feeling more energetic and focused than they have in years. Clinical research has even shown that treating sleep apnea results in a significant lowering of high blood pressure, which in turn will reduce a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke. You may be surprised to learn that making certain lifestyle changes can further enhance the beneficial effects of oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea.

Aerobic Exercise

In a 2011 article published in Sleep, researchers from several U.S. universities demonstrated the effectiveness of regular aerobic exercise in reducing sleep apnea symptoms and improving sleep quality. In the study, obese and overweight participants were divided into two groups. One group attended regular classes in stretching techniques, while the other group participated in regular aerobic activity (specifically, walking for 40 minutes, four times per week). At the beginning and the end of the study period, participants underwent a sleep study to measure the severity of their condition. Participants in the aerobic exercise group experienced an average 25% reduction in sleep apnea severity. Researcher further speculated that in addition to weight loss (another factor that has been shown to improve sleep quality in sleep apnea sufferers), the aerobic activity itself improved sleep apnea symptoms. If you don’t currently exercise, you should strongly consider a regular exercise program. You don’t have to run down to your local gym and sign up for a membership. Simply walking, 4-5 times per week at a rate which is comfortable but a little bit challenging for you is a great way to start. As your aerobic fitness improves over time, you can go for longer walks or even intensify your pace.

Make Smart Food and Drink Choices

Watching what you eat and drink, especially in the few hours leading up to bedtime, can help set the stage for a truly restful night’s sleep. You probably know that drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soft drinks will cause you to have problems falling asleep and staying asleep. However, other food, drinks, and medicines can interfere with your rest, including:

  • Fatty foods, like fried or buttery foods, which can cause stomach upset.
  • High protein foods, like red meat, which take longer to digest.
  • Spicy foods, like Mexican or Indian cuisine, which can cause indigestion or heartburn.
  • Alcoholic beverages, which can lead to disturbing dreams and frequent need to urinate during the night.
  • Certain medicines that contain caffeine (like Excedrin or Midol) or that have a diuretic effect (like many blood pressure medications) can keep you up at night.

As a general rule, stop eating at least two hours before bed and, if possible, stop drinking fluids an hour before bed.

Is Your Lifestyle Making Sleep Apnea Worse?

Things you do every day may have an affect on your sleep apnea diagnosis and symptoms. To learn how to improve your sleep, schehdule a visit with us by calling our Des Moines, IA, office at  515-244-0329, or email us at [email protected].