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Sleep Apnea - Home Treatment

Home treatment for obstructive sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes and changing some sleeping habits.

Lifestyle changes

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Living With Sleep Apnea

When Dave Williams fell asleep while stopped at a red light 12 years ago, he had to face up to a problem. "I was falling asleep at inappropriate times," says Williams, then 45, a business consultant in Cordova, Tenn. His doctor diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which breathing pauses repeatedly during sleep, and symptoms include loud snoring at night and sleepiness during the day. "People who have sleep apnea typically don't have any problems with their breathing while they're...

Read the Living With Sleep Apnea article > >

  • Lose weight. Some studies have shown that losing weight reduces the number of times an hour that you stop breathing (apnea) or that the airflow to your lungs is reduced (hypopnea).5, 6 Experts agree that weight loss should be part of managing sleep apnea.6 If you are overweight and have sleep apnea, nutritional counseling may help.
  • Limit the use of alcohol and medicine. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or taking certain medicines, especially sleeping pills or sedatives, before sleep may make symptoms worse.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Apnea episodes may be more frequent when you have not had enough sleep.
  • Quit smoking. The nicotine in tobacco relaxes the muscles that keep the airways open. If you don't smoke, those muscles are less likely to collapse at night and narrow the airways.
  • Promptly treat breathing problems, such as a stuffy nose caused by a cold or allergies.

Sleeping habit changes

  • Sleep on your side. Try this: Sew a pocket in the middle of the back of your pajama top, put a tennis ball into the pocket, and stitch it shut. This will help keep you from sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your side may eliminate mild sleep apnea.7
  • Raise the head of your bed 4 in. (10 cm) to 6 in. (15 cm) by putting bricks under the legs of the bed. You can also use a special pillow (called a cervical pillow) when you sleep. A cervical pillow can help your head stay in a position that reduces sleep apnea. Using regular pillows to raise your head and upper body won't work.
  • Use your CPAP machine every night. If you are using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help you breathe, use it every night. If you don't use it all night, every night, your symptoms will return right away. For more information about CPAP, see Other Treatment.

Some people use nasal strips, which widen the nostrils and improve airflow. Although these strips may decrease snoring, they cannot treat sleep apnea.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 19, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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