Losing sleep is a worse problem than many of us might expect. Most Americans realize that sleep is important to overall good health, but a new study reveals that people who suffer form sleep apnea suffer from some of the top killers more often than those getting a good night’s rest.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has just published a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concluding that people with sleep disorders suffer from cancer three times more frequently, stroke 4 times more often, and a list of other diseases from pneumonia to depression than those who have a healthy sleep schedule.
“Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic disease that can be destructive to your health,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Safwan Badr. People with symptoms of sleep apnea, such as loud and frequent snoring or silent pauses in breathing during sleep, should seek help in eliminating their sleep problems.
Apnea means ‘without breath.’ People with sleep apnea stop breathing or have shallow breathing several to many dozen times a night,, often starving the brain and body of much needed oxygen. In severe cases, people stop breathing up to 30 times in one hour of sleep.
Here are several ways to reduce sleep apnea naturally:
- Lose weight – Overweight people have a more difficult time breathing whether they are sleeping or awake. Start by walking several minutes a day about two hours before bed and try to eliminate refined sugars and soft drinks, as well as return to natural, organic foods to allow the body to find a healthy weight. Walking has been proven to help people sleep better, as do many other exercises. It just happens to be one of the easiest.
- Stop using your bed as an office – Reserve the bedroom for sleeping, relaxing, and cuddling. It will automatically make sleeping easier, inducing a psychological sense of relaxation, instead of agitating the brain before bed.
- Don’t eat too much before bed – Some of the most important revitalization of your body takes place while you are asleep. Organs and tissues heal themselves, and the brain processes the contents of the day. If you are still trying to digest your meal at 11pm or later, you are likely to wake more frequently.
- Stop mouth-breathing – You can practice breathing through your nose, or even attempt alternate nostril breathing before bed – an age old practice called Nadi Shodhana in yoga which has also been proven to lower your resting heart rate and prolong your life.
- Keep your nasal passages open – With irrigation utilizing salt water and making sure your allergies aren’t going haywire, you can keep the airways open and your sleep-breathing less labored.
- De–stress – Use yoga, Thai chi, Qi gong, or spending time in nature before bed to help your mind and nervous system relax. Do not, however, watch TV to fall asleep. This has been clinically proven to interrupt sleep cycles.
- Make it dark – A dark room allows the body to make more melatonin, paving way for an easier time falling asleep.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine at least 6 hours before sleep – These and other drugs influence the brain, which stimulates respiration. This may cause relaxed breathing muscles and a blockage of the airways, and encourages snoring.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.