Home treatment for obstructive sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes and changing some sleeping habits.
- Lose weight. Experts agree that weight loss should be part of managing sleep apnea.5 If you are overweight and have sleep apnea, nutritional counseling and other treatments 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.
One study found that people with sleep apnea who tend to have fluid collect in their lower legs and ankles may be helped by wearing compression stockings during the day.8 Keeping the fluid from collecting in the legs during the day may prevent the fluid from causing swelling of tissues in the nose and throat at night.
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.
- 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.
Your doctor may also suggest that you use a breathing device while you sleep. It helps keep your airways open. This could be a device that you put in your mouth. Other examples include strips or disks that you use on your nose.
Talk to your doctor if you are sleepy during the day and this gets in the way of the normal things you do. It's important that you do not drive or operate machinery while you are drowsy.