The everyday activities making your sleep apnea worse

If you are suffering from sleep apnea, more than likely you have seen a doctor about your increased snoring and inability to breathe during the night. After been diagnosed with sleep apnea, and possibly been fitted with a CPAP machine, you will perhaps be expecting a quiet and restful night’s sleep ahead, right?
You may be interested to learn that many everyday activities are worsening your sleep apnea, exasperating your condition and increasing your chances of needing further medical intervention. We have put together the common, everyday behaviours you do that are playing havoc with your sleep apnea, and how avoiding these will help you with a night of restful sleep.
Weight gain
One of the primary causes of sleep apnea is obesity, people who carry excess weight are more prone to sleep issues, in particular, sleep apnea, due to the heavy amount of tissue surrounding the airways. While it may not be the cause of your sleep apnea or your loved ones, gaining weight post-diagnosis will more than likely make the condition worse. Exercise and a healthy diet should be a priority, whilst seeking the guidance of a dietitian who specialises in weight loss in individuals with sleep apnea.  
If you have ever thought about quitting smoking, and you suffer sleep apnea, you have just given yourself the perfect reason to. The smoke from the cigarettes act as an irritant to the area around the throat; over time, smoking can cause the uvula, the soft palate, the tongue and your upper airways to swell, which inhibits your ability to breathe. Combine with sleep apnea, smoking guarantees you an unhealthy sleep.
There is little surprise that alcohol consumption is on this list, but many sufferers of sleep apnea neglect to address the impact drinking has on their rest. What alcohol does is it acts as a muscle relaxant, so during your sleep your relaxed airways are susceptible to blockages and obstructions. Cutting down your alcohol consumption is key, especially by avoiding it close to bedtime.
Sleeping on your back
For those with or without a CPAP machine, sleeping on your back is one of the worse sleeping positions for sleep apnea. While we recommend you sleep in a lateral position on your side whilst wearing the mask, this sleeping position is best for anyone with sleep apnea. Lying on your back relaxes the muscles, especially your tongue, and this position worsens the complaint.

How To Care For Your CPAP Machine

By now you have come to realise how important your CPAP machine is for your health, your sleep and your overall happiness. You can’t imagine a world where something happens to your machine and it becomes unusable, especially if the reason was something you could have easily avoided.

In the article, we take you through the basics of caring for your CPAP machine, the best practices for cleaning it and how to avoid dirt build-up in the most crucial parts of the device.

Clean Your Machine Every Day
Your CPAP mask can build up dirt very quickly, especially around the rim of the mask where it comes into contact with your face. Therefore, it is imperative you wash the machine every day. Most users find it beneficial to wipe down the machine in the morning, allowing the machine to dry during the day, ready for the evening.

Avoid using a facial oil

Before using your mask, you must have a clean face, free of moisturisers, face oils or skincare products. The chemicals in these face products breakdown the silicone around the mask, destroying the integrity and costing you in replacements. Keep your facial creams for during the day, and avoid using them at night.
Don’t use harsh chemicals
Your CPAP machine should be cleaned gently using warm water and fragrant free soap, preferably paraben and irritant-free. If you are concerned about what product to use, choose CPAP mask wipes and cleaning products, as you know they will be safe on your machine. Always use a dry paper towel to wipe down excess moisture and allow to dry in place out of the sunlight.
Check the cords

The power cords to your CPAP machine are one of the most neglected parts of the entire device. However, if these cords become tangled or damaged, you lose the ability to use your machine very quickly. Ensure you keep them out of harm’s way, out of the way of pets who chew on power cords, and lift them from the ground during vacuuming and cleaning.
Follow the maintenance schedule
When you purchase your machine, you will be given a guide indicating when to replace certain elements of the machine, such as the cushions or the mask. It’s important you follow these recommendations seriously, keeping up with changes as closely as possible. This is for your health and the longevity of the machine.

Five essential tips for traveling with a CPAP machine

Does the thought of travelling with your CPAP machine scare you beyond belief? While travelling overseas, or locally, without your CPAP machine is tempting, you run the risk of derailing your dream holiday, all in the name of convenience.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects you whether you are home or away, and neglecting your vital CPAP machine for an extended period won’t be enjoyed by you or your family! Here are our five essential tips for travelling with your CPAP machine, and how sleep apnea doesn’t have to ruin your next vacation!

Avoid packing your CPAP machine in your check-in luggage

We have all experienced the dreaded feeling at the baggage carousel, waiting impatiently for our bags to appear amongst hundreds of others. If you are one of the unlucky whose check-in luggage disappears after your flight, your bag won’t normally be returned to you for days, sometimes even weeks.

Pack your CPAP machine in your carry on in a suitable and sturdy bag, one that will ensure the machine won’t get damaged whilst in the overhead locker on the plane.

Prepare for handling by airport security

During the pre-flight screening, airport security officers will more than likely want to inspect your machine. This could involve removing the machine from its case so it can be X-rayed or checked for explosives.

In anticipation of this happening, we recommend packing the machine inside a clear plastic bag, so it can travel through a scanner without having to be touched, or come into contact with the scanner bins.

Bring the CPAP charger and adaptor

Along with the machine in your carry-on luggage, make sure you pack the charging cord for the machine, a backup if you have one, and a dedicated power adaptor, if you are travelling internationally. Plugging and unplugging the machine can be tiresome, so a dedicated adaptor will eliminate the effort.

Bring your essentials for sleep

If there is certain clothing, bedding or pillows that help settle you to sleep, or comfort you whilst wearing the CPAP machine, bring these away with you. Sleeping in a foreign bed is hard enough to adapt to, let alone with sleep apnea, so pack your creature comforts for the perfect holiday.

Avoid overnight/sleep flights

Overnight, long haul flights and sleeping flights can create a lot of anxiety for sleep apnea sufferers. To avoid this feeling, investigate shorter flights, broken up into sections or that don’t fly overnight. Consider flights that allow you to be in bed during sleep times when you can access the machine conveniently.

Common CPAP mask concerns and how to resolve them

If you suffer from sleep apnea, then a CPAP mask could help ease some of your sleeping and breathing issues. However, wearing a mask every night to treat the disorder can seem daunting, but it needn’t be. CPAP masks are available in a range of shapes, styles and sizes, so with a bit of help, you’re certain to find a mask that’s comfortable enough for regular nighttime use. Let’s take a closer look at some common CPAP mask concerns and what you can do to resolve them.

Difficulty getting used to the air pressure

At first, most users find tolerating the forced air pressure a challenge. However, a lot of new CPAP machines come with a feature that begins with a lower pressure before building this up slowly to reach the required pressure to support your breathing. If you find exhaling against the air difficult, ask your sleep expert about sensors or other features which offer relief during expiration.

The tube gets in the way

If you find the air hose to be annoying while you’re trying to sleep, consider switching to a pillow which is specifically designed for CPAP users. These tend to have large cutouts on either side so the hose doesn’t lie across your pillow. Most also have a tether to secure the tube and reduce seal disruption.

You become claustrophobic thinking about wearing the mask

Discomfort or claustrophobia is one of the most common complaints about wearing a CPAP mask, and rightly so. After all, having a mask strapped to your face takes some getting used to. Therefore, we advise wearing your mask at home through the day while you’re doing your chores, completing your usual activities or even watching the TV. This will help you get used to the feel of the mask and the air pressure, putting you more at ease once nighttime rolls around. You could also try napping with the mask on so you get used to sleeping no matter where you are.

If you still have concerns about wearing your CPAP mask, the team at Apnea Seal is happy to help. We make custom 3D masks for sleep apnea machines, so we can answer any questions you have.

Avoiding these foods can help your sleep apnea

Most sleep apnea sufferers are aware of the connection between diet and the acuteness of their condition. A good diet replete with lean meat, fruits and vegetables could help you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn can reduce the negative effects of your sleep apnea. But there are some troublesome items on your dinner table that could possibly worsen your sleep apnea no matter what the scales say.

Beware of soy products

Soy seems to be the building block of a lot of healthy products out there and tofu is mother’s milk for many vegetarians. Too much soy, however, may worsen your sleep apnea. Soy beans and the plethora of products made from them, including oil, can cause your body to produce excess mucus, which will exasperate any breathing problems you have. If you notice that you are more phlegmy than usual, it may be a good idea to check your soy consumption.

Skip the nightcap

The idea that a little sip of alcohol can help you get a good night’s sleep is a widely held misconception. The sleep that a stiff drink can help you achieve is often fragile and unreliable. This is due to a number of factors – dehydration being one of them. Alcohol also relaxes the muscles, which after a stressful day may sound appealing, but often it will relax your upper airways, making breathing difficult. This causes your CPAP machine to work harder to keep air flowing into your lungs.

Cut out the carbs/sugar

The connection between refined carbohydrates and weight gain is well documented. That in and of itself is a good reason to reduce your intake, as the more weight you gain, the higher the chance your sleep apnea symptoms will worsen. What many people do not know, however, is that there is also a connection between sugar and the amount of mucus your body produces. As with soy, high sugar foods can cause your body to produce more phlegm. It also has the unsettling effect of thickening the mucus that may be already sitting in your throat, which obviously makes breathing more difficult.

All in all, the point isn’t to abstain completely from these foods but to monitor your intake and listen to your body. Keep a food journal and take note of how you feel upon waking up the next morning. You may see that there is a direct correlation between a peaceful night’s sleep and the meals you consumed the day before.

How a good nighttime routine can help sleep apnea

If you are suffering from sleep apnea (also known as sleep apnoea), you may be wondering what you can do to achieve a good night’s sleep. For many, developing a good night time routine can drastically reduce the effects of sleep apnea. That is why we have put together these handy tips gathered from talking to sleep apnea sufferers about their nighttime routines and what has helped them.

Go to bed when properly tired

This might seem obvious, but many of us lay down before our bodies are truly ready for sleep. Exercising in the evening can be a good way to use up any excess energy you might have. Also, try and avoid watching videos on your phone or other activities that might keep your mind alert while lying in bed. You want to lay down to sleep when you are ready to sleep so you can sleep deeply in one position, and avoid tossing and turning, which can reposition you onto your back.

Avoid sleeping on your back

This might seem easier said than done, but sufferers of sleep apnea will know it is much more preferable to sleep on your side. As a fail-safe, you might try the tennis ball trick. Sew a tennis ball into the back of your pyjamas or place a pillow with a ball inside it behind your back. That way if you do roll over, you will move again due to discomfort.

Don’t eat right before bed

You don’t want to load your body with energy right before sleep, so avoid eating, especially sugary foods, right before bed. Try and have your dinner as early as possible to allow for digestion before sleep.

Meditation for sleep apnea

Meditation and mindfulness are a great way to prepare the mind and body for deep sleep. These practices help to calm the mind and regulate breathing, which are two key issues for sleep apnea sufferers. The more relaxed you are, the more chance you have of deep and restful sleep.

So there you have it! Follow these simple tips for developing a good nighttime routine, and they might help reduce your sleep apnea and give you (and those around you) a much better night sleep. Why not give them a try today?

Photo: Moon by pviojo licensed under Creative commons 4

How to cope after a sleepless night

Although sleep apnea treatments can help improve your sleep quality and reduce sleepless nights, sufferers may still find themselves coping with fatigue from time to time. Whether you’re getting used to sleeping with a CPAP mask or are waiting for your treatment regime to start working, you may occasionally find yourself staring at the ceiling all night long.

Fortunately, there are ways that sleep apnea sufferers can cope with the effects of short-term sleep deprivation. These include:

1. Avoid your snooze button

Getting up as soon as your alarm sounds after a night of tossing and turning can be difficult, but it will help your body stay in sync with its natural sleeping patterns. Snoozing outside of your normal hours can leave you feeling groggy and will make your day more difficult to get through.

2. Step outside

Immersing yourself in natural light will help wake you up by raising your body temperature and lifting your mood. Ideally, try taking a short walk before work or whatever important activities you have planned for the day.

3. Eat breakfast

Eating breakfast as soon as you get up is a great way to stimulate the brain, improve your mood and mitigate the effects of fatigue. Make sure to stay clear of sugary foods, however. As well as potentially contributing to weight gain, they are likely to cause a sugar crash during the day, leaving you feeling drained and unwell.

4. Get the important stuff done first

If you’re heading into the office, make sure that you take on the tricky tasks first as you will be most alert during the first few hours of the day.

5. Feel free to indulge in some coffee

Caffeine can be useful if you’re sleep deprived, so make yourself a few tasty cups of coffee early in the day. Once you hit 3pm, however, avoid imbibing any more caffeinated drinks, as they could potentially hinder another night’s sleep.

6. Make a note of your sleepless nights

Although insomnia is perfectly normal from time to time (even for those without sleep apnea), chronic sleeplessness may be a cause for concern. If you find that you’re suffering from fatigue on a regular basis, make an appointment with your doctor. A few simple adjustments to your treatment regime could be all that is needed to address your issues.

Identifying sleep apnea in children

Although sleep apnea is a condition typically associated with older people, it can occur in people of any age, including children. If you’re concerned that your child may have sleep apnea, it is important to understand that the condition manifests in different ways in children and adults.

What are the causes of sleep apnea in children?

Known as paediatric obstructive sleep apnea, the version of the disorder that affects children is usually caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. In adults, the underlying cause tends to be obesity.

However, as obesity prevalence amongst children continues to rise, so does the number of children suffering from sleep apnea. In this way, weight gain can still affect a young person’s chances of developing the condition, and it is important to focus on feeding your child a diet that will help them to maintain a healthy weight.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea in children?

Like adult sleep apnea, symptoms of the paediatric version of the disorder can include loud snoring, uneven breathing during sleep, restlessness, and mouth breathing. However, children may also experience night time symptoms such as bed wetting and sleep terrors.

The daytime symptoms of sleep apnea also tend to be different in children compared to adults. Whilst adults with the condition tend to be sluggish and irritable, a child with the condition may experience learning and development issues, hyperactivity, poor performance in school, behavioural issues, and problems with paying attention. Of course, these symptoms can be caused by a wide range of issues, so it is important that you make an appointment with a doctor in order to secure a diagnosis.

What are the risk factors for developing sleep apnea?

Although any child could potentially develop sleep apnea (particularly if they are overweight), some are more at risk than others. For example, conditions such as cerebral palsy, sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, neuromuscular disease, and facial abnormalities can all put children at a higher risk of sleep apnea.

Treating the condition

Fortunately, sleep apnea in children can be effectively treated using oral devices, medications, CPAP machines or, if necessary, surgery to remove the tonsils. It is important to secure a diagnosis early on if you believe that your child has sleep apnea as it can cause issues with growth, heart health, and personal development if left untreated.

Photo: IMG_4227 by pixydust8605 licensed under Creative commons 4

Supporting someone with sleep apnea

Thanks to the introduction of effective treatments such as the CPAP machine, sleep apnea has become a manageable condition that many sufferers can deal with effectively.

Despite this, however, virtually everyone with sleep apnea would rather not have the condition. Indeed, sleep apnea can still cause a number of physical and emotional issues that can be difficult to deal with. In this way, therefore, it is important that the family members and partners of people with sleep apnea are aware of the effects that the condition can have on their loved one’s life. Here are a few ways that you can support a person with sleep apnea:

1. Remind them that sleep apnea is not their fault

One of the primary and most obvious symptoms of sleep apnea is loud and consistent snoring. Partners of sufferers, therefore, may have to deal with disrupted sleep on a regular basis and may even decide to sleep in a separate room from their partner during snoring episodes.

Unsurprisingly, this can generate tensions in a relationship and can cause the sufferer to feel guilty, rejected or depressed. In this way, it is important that the partners of sufferers are open about the way in which the sleep disruption affects them, whilst reassuring the person with sleep apnea that they are not blamed for their condition in any way.

2. Let them know that their condition is improving

If you notice that a CPAP machine is having a positive effect on a person’s snoring problem, let them know. Indeed, there is nothing more heartening than positive messages from partners and family members which, by extension, will encourage them to comply with treatment regimes.

3. Make lifestyle changes a family mission

Regardless of whether you live in a small or a large household, encouraging everyone to exercise regularly and eat more healthily can have a hugely positive effect on a sleep apnea sufferer. Losing weight and exercising regularly can be hugely beneficial to those with sleep apnea, but these lifestyle changes can be difficult to do alone. Getting everyone involved will help them stay focused and, of course, will improve the health of wellbeing of the entire household. It’s a win-win situation!

Lifestyle habits that make sleep apnea worse

As anyone with sleep apnea will know, the most important action to take after diagnosis is to find an effective treatment option such as a CPAP machine. While the field of modern medicine has come up with some life-changing therapies to treat the disease, patients hoping to stave off their symptoms need to make sure that their lifestyle isn’t making their condition worse.

A range of factors can make sleep apnea worse, potentially rendering medical treatments less effective. These include:

1. Weight gain

Obesity is one of the main causes of sleep apnea as heavier people tend to have a greater build-up of tissues around the neck that can restrict the airway. As such, if an obese person diagnosed with sleep apnea gains weight, their condition will almost certainly get worse.

Unfortunately, sleep apnea can generate a vicious cycle of weight gain as the fatigue caused by the disorder can increase the appetites of sufferers. In this way, it is important that people with sleep apnea are mindful of their diet and exercise choices. If you find yourself reaching for mid-morning treats on a regular basis, try to distract yourself with other things and remind yourself of the importance of keeping your weight in check.

2. Alcohol

In the short term, alcohol can make sleep apnea worse as it relaxes the muscles in the throat. This means that the airway will be more easily obstructed during the night and sufferers are more likely to wake up at regular intervals. In the long term, therefore, regular alcohol use can cause fatigue (and all of the negative symptoms that go with it).

3. Smoking

Smokers will already know many of the reasons why they should quit the habit, but those with sleep apnea may be unaware of the ways in which it can affect their condition. Indeed, as well as raising the risk of developing sleep apnea in the first place, smoking can irritate the airway, throat and tongue. In turn, this worsens the physical symptoms associated with the disorder.

4. Prescription medications

Some prescription medications such as muscle relaxants and painkillers can make the symptoms of your sleep apnea worse. Remember to talk with your doctor about your condition before you start taking any new drugs for other health problems.