Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
One reason that weight gain increases your risk for sleep apnea so much is because it makes it more likely that you’re essentially gaining weight on the inside of your neck, which affects your throat muscles and breathing capabilities. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have sleep disturbances since fat deposits around your upper airway can obstruct normal breathing. Some experts recommend getting a measurement of your collar size and neck circumference. If you’re a man with a neck circumference over 17 inches (43 centimeters) or a women over 15 inches (38 centimeters), you have a significantly higher risk for sleep apnea.
Avoid Excessive Alcohol, Smoking and Overuse of Sedatives
Alcohol has been shown to interfere with sleep quality and can also relax the throat muscles, including the uvula and palate, which are needed to help control breathing. Over-the-counter sleep aids, sedatives and prescription tranquilizers can have the same effects. This can lead to worsened snoring and other symptoms, plus more grogginess during the day.
Both smoking and alcohol can also contribute to inflammation and fluid retention in the airways, which disturbs normal sleep. Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are people who’ve never smoked, just in case you needed another reason to quit. (4) Work on quitting smoking, and if you do drink, plan not to have any drinks at least three hours before going to bed.
Treat Acid Reflux, Congestion and Coughs
Many people suffering from sleep apnea and heavy snoring also have other medical problems that interfere with normal breathing, including acid reflux/heartburn, congestion and chronic coughs. Nasal congestion leads to difficulty breathing through the nose and can worsen symptoms or even contribute to the development of obstructive sleep apnea.
In the case of esophageal reflux, it’s possible that acid is making its way to your throat and voice box, where it causes irritation and swelling around certain throat muscles. Coughs might also irritate your upper airways and increase snoring. Adjusting your diet, reducing exposure to allergies and raising your head while sleeping can help reduce reflux and congestion.
Humidify Your Bedroom
Some people report decreased snoring, less congestion and clearer breathing when they sleep with a humidifier in their bedrooms. A humidifier might be able to help encourage your sinuses to drain and more air to move through your airways. You can also rub essential oils such as eucalyptus oil (the same kind used to make Vicks VapoRub) on your chest before sleeping to help naturally open your airways and soothe a stuffy nose or throat.