Lifestyle changes are an important part of the treatment program and in mild cases lifestyle changes may be all that are needed.
Overweight people can benefit from losing weight. Even a 3-5kg weight loss may reduce the severity of snoring and sleep apnoea in some patients.
Individuals with sleep apnoea should also limit the use of alcohol and sleeping pills, which makes the airway more likely to collapse during sleep state.
Smoking cessation – smoking causes swelling and irritation of the upper airway.
Not sleeping on your back.
- Do not go to bed hungry – an empty stomach can interfere with sleep.
- A light healthy snack before bed is OK, but don’t eat a heavy meal before bed.
- A cup of warm milk or herbal tea (caffeine-free) can help to induce sleep.
Alcohol makes snoring and sleep apnoea worse by increasing muscle relaxation. By making the muscles and tissues at the back of the throat more relaxed, they are more susceptible to collapse and therefore causing restricted upper airway patency.
- Avoid consuming alcohol at least 4 hours before going to bed. It can seem to help you fall asleep, but it also causes disruptive sleep.
- Keep alcohol consumption to below two standard drinks daily.
Caffeine takes effect within 3 to 5 hours of consumption and may take up to 8 hours to be eliminated from the body. This results in difficulty in falling and staying asleep.
- Caffeine and tobacco are both stimulants and should be avoided at least 4 hours before going to bed.
Television and reading
- It’s best not to watch television in bed, because this may stimulate your brain and delay sleep onset.
- If you like to read in bed to encourage sleep, use a 15 watt light bulb or less.
Tips on getting to sleep:
Aim for at least 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
Try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day – routine will encourage good quality sleep.
Avoid naps during the day to ensure that you are tired at bedtime.
Try to go to bed only when you are sleepy – this will reduce the amount of time you are awake in bed.
Try not to become stressed if you feel you are not getting enough sleep. Remember that sleep will come eventually, and try to relax.
Avoid looking at the clock while in bed. If you can’t get to sleep or get back to sleep for an extended period, get out of bed and do something boring in very dim light, or sit and relax in the dark until you are sleepy.
- Make sure you are exposed to bright light and sun during the day while you are awake – this will encourage you to feel sleepy at the same time every night.
- Try to maximise the light around your house for your morning routine.
- Avoid bright light around the house before bed.
- Use dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before going to bed.
Reducing your weight to a healthy range, even by 3 to 5 kgs can significantly improve your sleep pattern.
- Being physically tired will help you sleep better.
- Exercise increases serotonin levels which in turn promotes sleep.
- Reducing your activity before going to bed and not exercising at least 3 hours before retiring allows your body temperature to adjust and be cool enough for a good night’s sleep.
- Exercising in the morning or early afternoon can encourage a healthy sleep routine. People who exercise at least once a week have less chance of sleep disorders. Exercise 3 to 5 times a week is recommended.
RELAXATION & MEDITATION
Learn a relaxation skill to calm your mind and clear your head to assist you in falling and staying asleep. Some of these techniques could include:
- Deep breathing
- Guided visualisation
- Tai Chi
Your sleeping environment
- Keep your bedroom at a cool, comfortable temperature, and maintain a dark and quiet sleeping environment.
- If you have problems with noise in your environment, try listening to soft relaxing music, a CD of nature sounds, or good sleep/relaxation recordings.