Blog# 80 Sleep Apnea: Some Holistic Answers
Sleep apnea, a common problem, occurs when the sleeper stops breathing. Often, people experiencing sleep apnea snore. They may wake up due to low oxygen when they stop breathing. Sleep apnea often leaves people feeling tired upon awakening, and fatigued or drowsy throughout the day. Efficiency, focus and safety can be compromised, as well as physical health.
Some possible causes of this problem include experiencing overwhelming stress during the day or at night, being overweight or obese, consuming foods to which one is allergic or sensitive, over-eating or eating too late at night, smoking tobacco, and drinking alcohol, especially at night. Often the air passages are blocked by the tongue, inflamed throat tissue or enlarged tonsils. Sometimes, the cause originates from the central nervous system, for example, due to a prolonged period of excessive stress, the brain may become conditioned to stop a person’s breathing after they fall asleep. Nightmares or emotionally charged dreams may also cause the sleeper to stop breathing.
Some well-known, conventional solutions to sleep apnea are sleeping on either side or face down rather than on the back, using a C-Pap machine, and losing weight. Other, less known strategies include eliminating allergens from the diet and environment and improving stress management. I personally learned to control my sleep apnea by doing two things: avoiding foods to which I was allergic or sensitive and using self-hypnosis suggestions for breathing and relaxation.
Some foods that often can disturb sleep by causing inflammation in the body or making the mind overly active contain gluten (wheat, barley and rye). Other problem foods include processed sugars, such as white and brown sugar, evaporated cane juice, beet sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup, pasteurized honey, and agave nectar, to name a few. Caffeine, alcohol, highly spicy foods, dairy foods, such as milk, whipped cream and cheese, fried foods, such as deep-fried chicken and fish, and French fries, and cold foods, such as ice cream or ice water can also disturb sleep.
Testing for food allergies or intolerances by checking for antibodies to particular substances, such as casein or whey in dairy can help pinpoint problems. There are several different antibodies to test for, including IgA, IgG and IgE. If you ask your physician to test for these and possibly other antibodies, he or she will often comply, especially if your physician has a holistic perspective. Observing a strict elimination diet is another way of determining food allergies and sensitivities. Elimination diets often work best with the support of a safe detoxification program. People using these diets cut out possible food allergens and then, after a few weeks, phase them back in one by one, watching for any reactions.
Listening to relaxing music, reading calming or inspirational literature, using high quality organic essential oils in a diffuser, or giving thanks for things in one’s life each night before bedtime all may set the scene for less sleep disturbance.
I am particularly impressed with what self-hypnosis can do for people with sleep apnea. I have observed the results in my patients and also in myself. Many years ago, I developed a sentence that I then connected with a smooth breathing pattern (hypnotists refer to this connection as grounding). Upon awakening at night, I would repeat that sentence with the chosen breathing pattern for a few minutes and would then easily fall asleep again. Doing this several times a night for a few nights in a row would allow me to sleep much more soundly for several weeks to several months before I would need to repeat these suggestions and patterns.
This month’s offer: contact me about self-hypnosis for sleep apnea. I will assess your situation and let you know if I think this approach will be helpful.