Sleep apnea refers to episodic periods of time during your sleep cycle when you stop breathing. If you snore or wake up gasping for breath, you may have sleep apnea. This cyclic abnormal breathing pattern can heighten your risk for developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and daytime sleepiness. Here are three lifestyle factors that can raise your risk for sleep apnea and what you can do about them.
If you overeat, you may gain unhealthy amounts of weight. Excess fat, especially fat know as visceral fat in your abdomen, can raise your risk for snoring and subsequent sleep apnea. When excess abdominal fat exerts too much pressure on your diaphragm, you may be unable to sustain an effective pattern of breathing during sleep.
If you are overweight, try losing a few pounds. If you are unable to lose weight on your own, talk to your doctor who will be able to recommend effective weight management strategies to help you with your struggle.
Drinking Alcohol Before Bedtime
If you drink alcohol before going to sleep, you may be at risk for sleep apnea. Alcohol can relax the muscles in your mouth and throat, including the muscles in the back of your tongue. This can cause the back of your tongue to slip into your throat, blocking your airway and impairing your breathing.
When the airway in your throat is impeded or obstructed, sleep apnea and episodes of breathing cessation can occur. Try abstaining from drinking before going to sleep so that your body has a chance to metabolize the alcohol. If you do drink before bedtime, try sleeping on your side to help ensure that your airway stays open while you sleep.
Eating Certain Foods
Acid reflux disease can also raise your risk for apnea episodes. If you have acid reflux, avoid trigger foods, such as chocolate, alcohol, mint, onions, citrus fruit, and coffee. These foods can lead to heartburn and the release of irritating stomach acid into your esophagus and throat.
This can subsequently cause inflammation of your larynx, and the soft tissue of your throat can impair your breathing. If you have acid reflux, try sleeping with the head of your bed elevated to discourage stomach acid from migrating up into your esophagus.
If you think you have sleep apnea, make an appointment with an ENT specialist to discuss snoring surgery and other interventions that may help manage your condition. After your snoring and sleep apnea have been treated, you will feel better, reduce your risk for certain medical conditions, and have more energy during the day.