Wouldn’t it be nice if treating your Sleep Apnea was as easy as breathing? This incurable sleeping disorder is affecting millions of American people every single night, and many more around the world. Unfortunately, there is no certain cure for the dangerous disorder, the treatment is manageable. Most people turn to mechanical breathing devices like CPAP, mouthpieces, and even surgery to treat their Sleep Apnea symptoms. Because conventional medical treatment options can be expensive and uncomfortable, a lot of apnea victims try to treat the underlying causes of their apnea case. Practicing breathing exercises can be an alternative form of treatment for treating Sleep Apnea; it also promotes mental health, stress relief, and relaxation.
What are Breathing Exercises?
Breathing exercises used by apnea patients can be categorized as rhythmic breath patterns and habits that target the muscles in the upper airway. These exercises help work the delicate muscles and collapsible tissues in the respiratory system; exercises that target breathing muscles can also increase lung capacity, help manage anxiety, and even reduce high blood pressure.
How do Breathing Exercises Help Sleep Apnea Patients?
Concentrated deep breathing exercises are a great way to promote natural, healthy sleep. People with Sleep Apnea often experience stiffness in the muscles that surround their rib cage. These stiff muscles make basic respiratory functions like inhalation difficult. Stiff muscles are also weak muscles. When the muscles around the ribs become stiff, they don’t remove stale air that has nestled itself into the tissue around the lungs. No fresh oxygen is reaching the blood stream because the stale oxygen is taking its place. Exercising these muscles regularly will keep them limber. Limber rib muscles will help support the respiratory system, stiff muscles will not.
Sleep Apnea patients commonly experience quick, shallow breathing. When apnea victims wake up during the night after an episode of apnea, they often wake up gasping for air or choking. Shallow breathing can be caused by weak airway muscles, and it leads to poor oxygen consumption; some cases of Sleep Apnea even lead to respiratory diseases. Strengthening airway muscles will help support proper functioning. A committed exerciser will experience more airway support and they will also be at lower risk for heart disease, fatigue, and additional respiratory issues.
Breathing exercises are the most natural remedies for trouble sleeping. As the breath becomes slower, and the breathing becomes deeper, the exerciser becomes more relaxed and sleepy. In addition to strengthening the muscles that support the upper airway, breathing techniques can also help the body wind down and get ready for sleep.
- Morning Breathing: The following steps should be completed directly upon waking up in the morning; it should be the very first thing that you do.
- Stand up and give your whole body a good stretch. Take the time to audibly yawn and stretch all of the muscles in the back of the mouth and the upper throat.
- Slowly, bend over at the waist. Let your arms, head and neck dangle freely in front of you. There should be no tension in your upper body, just concentrated tension release. Slightly bend the knees. Bent knees help control balance; locked knees can make you pass out.
- Slowly roll the body upwards. Start at the base of the spine and roll up one vertebra at a time. It should feel like the vertebrae in your back are slowly stacking- one right on top of the other.
- As you roll up, inhale deeply and slowly. If you run out of space in your lungs while you are rolling up, stop and take a breath. The spine should not be moving unless breath is being inhaled. The head should be the very last thing to come up and top off the spinal totem pole.
- When you’re standing straight up again, take the deepest breath you can muster.
- Hold the breath for a couple of seconds, and then lower the upper body back down. You will be in position to roll up again.
- Repeat this exercise two or three times first thing in the morning, every morning.
- Before Sleep: Complete the following steps at night, when you first settle into bed. You should feel the muscles in your chest become less tight and you will feel less stressed.
- Lying on your back, focus on letting the muscles of the body relax. Consciously release tension in the body.
- When you’re ready and you feel relaxed, take a deep breath in through your nose.
- Visualize the inhalation as a warm beam of light. The beam travels from your nostrils where the breath begins all the way down to your stomach.
- Breathe in again, but this time count silently to five.
- At five, purse your lips into a “kissy” position, and exhale. The exhale should be slow and controlled.
- When you exhale all the air in your lungs, pause before you inhale again. Let your body experience what the need for air feels like.
- After a slight pause, inhale again. This time, however, count to ten. Your inhalation should last as long as you are counting. If you can’t make the jump from five to ten, don’t fret. Work your way up to ten in increments; try counting to five, then seven, then nine, and then ten.
- Purse lips and exhale slowly again.
- Repeat the process around ten times. Keep trying to increase the length of inhalation, but don’t push yourself. Anytime the exercise becomes uncomfortable, stop working so hard.
- Tongue Holding: This is a great exercise because it can be done sitting, standing or lying down. The following steps simulate the way your body breathes while you are asleep; they will help teach your body how to breathe efficiently.
- Push the very tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
- After the tip, press as much of the top of your tongue against the roof of your mouth as you can, comfortably of course.
- As you hold the tongue against the roof of your mouth, breathe through the nose slowly. The breath should be consistent and controlled.
There are countless other breathing exercises that focus on the respiratory muscles targeted by Sleep Apnea. Pranayama is a popular yoga technique that focuses on breath awareness and control. Buteyko is also practiced by Sleep Apnea patients; Buteyko breathing techniques focus on reversing hyperventilation. Balloon breathing is another fun, popular technique.