Sleep Your Way to Better Health

A good night's rest can help you lose weight, beat depression, and ward off heart disease.
Sleep Your Way to Better Health
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THE PROBLEM: Sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea’s symptoms include loud snoring and gasps for breath, but it also interrupts sleep because it causes you to stop breathing for anywhere from ten to 30 sec- onds at a time. “The oxygen-deprived brain sounds an alarm—the arousal trigger—forcing you to wake up, jolting open the upper airway, and allowing the proper airflow to resume,” explains Carlos H. Schenck, M.D., in his book Sleep: The Mysteries, the Problems, and the Solutions. More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Try a mask to breathe right. Obstructive sleep apnea needs to be diagnosed in a sleep lab. The most reliable treatment is a mask that fits over the nose and/or mouth called a “continuous positive airway pressure device,” or CPAP. It blows in pressurized air to keep the airway open.

  • Caveat: Be sure to test a mask first to make sure it’s comfortable for you. Ask your doctor to suggest a make.

Snoring happens when you breathe in through your mouth and your soft palate or uvula vibrates against the back of your throat or the base of your tongue as you breathe in. Snoring is an indication that something is preventing you from breathing efficiently, says Krainson, and can lead to sleep disruption, headaches, and fatigue. It’s also associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, even if you’re not overweight. Incorporate these tips to help stop snoring.

Lose weight. You’re more likely to snore if you’re overweight.

Stay off your back. Sleep on your side as much as possible.

Drink less. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the airway, making it more likely you’ll snore. Drink your last glass of wine or bottle of beer at least four hours before bedtime.