What is sleep apnea?
A struggle for air; unusually loud snoring often accompanied by kicking, flailing and body spasms; feeling disoriented upon awakening and drowsy the rest of the day—those are the symptoms of sleep apnea, a disorder in which people literally stop breathing as they sleep. It happens when muscles in the throat wall relax so much that they actually close up in the deepest stages of sleep, blocking the flow of air. After 20 seconds or so of not breathing, the person is awakened to a lighter level of sleep, only to be disrupted again as he or she heads toward deeper sleep once more. The consequence? It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to get a good night’s sleep. Since obesity is a common culprit in sleep apnea, losing weight is one of the best ways to find relief. A special machine that helps sufferers breathe may also ease the problem.
Self-help for snorers
- Exercise regularly to develop good muscle tone.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid alcohol within four hours of bedtime.
- Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills and antihistamines before bedtime.
- Sleep on your side rather than your back. Sew a “snore sock” (a sock with a tennis ball in it) to the back of your pajamas. It will prevent you from rolling onto your back during sleep.
- Raise the head of your bed (not your pillow) four inches.
- Wear a whiplash collar to bed to keep your chin extended.