One of the most recognizable symptoms of sleep disorders is snoring, even though many patients ignore this sign or fail to recognize it as a symptom of a more serious condition.
Other symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing may include:
- excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
- poor concentration
- morning headaches
- depressed mood
- night sweats
- weight gain
- sexual dysfunction
The Good: Falling asleep on your back might help you wake up feeling much more refreshed than usual. That’s because sleeping on your back is the best position for getting high quality sleep, says Breus. It’s the only position you can sleep in all night without having to readjust. When you sleep on your back, your weight is evenly distributed across your skeletal frame, unlike other positions. Translation: No more waking and tossing and turning because of tingly pain due to poor circulation in your arms or legs.
Plus, if you have lower back pain, sleeping on your back with your knees propped up by pillows could take some pressure off your spine and relieve pain. How? “As soon as you start to raise your knees, that secondary curvature of your spine [in your lower back] starts to go away,” says Winter. The rounding in your lower back mimics the natural curvature of your spine that occurs when you’re sleeping on your side, in the fetal position. Think of it this way: When you’re lying flat on your back with your legs extended on the floor, you can probably fit your hand in the space between the floor and your lower back. But when your knees are up and your feet placed flat on the floor, you are easing some tension from the lower back all night long.
The Bad: While back sleeping is the optimal for many people, it’s not for everyone. When you’re on your back, your upper airway is the least stable, says Winter. The result? You might snore more or experience worse symptoms of sleep apnea, two conditions that can be annoying to bed partners and also potentially detrimental to your health.
Dr Mercola wrote:
Nine Natural Options to Stop Snoring and Improve Your Sleep
Fortunately, there are many natural, non-invasive techniques at your disposal before you turn to more radical medical intervention.
Here are nine of my favorite strategies.
1. Sleep on your side, not your back — The reason why sleeping on your side instead of your back is recommended is because snoring is often due to lax muscles in your throat and tongue. When you lie on your back your throat and tongue muscles ease backward in your throat, causing a vibration as you struggle to breathe. An old folk remedy recommends sewing a tennis ball on the back of your pajamas to help keep you off your back while you sleep.
2. Raise the head of your bed – This simple tip can also help diminish the collapsing of your airways. Simply raise the head of your bed about four inches, by placing blocks or wedges under your mattress.
3. Normalize your weight — Carrying extra weight around your neck can also cause your throat to narrow when you lay down, hence the higher incidence of snoring if you’re overweight. Normalizing your body weight could make a big difference. Reducing grains and sugars as I discuss in my nutritional guidelines is a great way to accomplish that.
4. Do throat and tongue exercises — If they are stronger they are less likely to slip backward.
Here’s an example of one such exercise: Begin by simply putting your upper and lower molars together, lightly. Next, open your mouth, focusing on pressing your molars as wide apart as you can, without over stretching. Repeat this ten to twenty times. After about 5 to 10 times you should feel your jaw muscles strengthening, and the back of your mouth opening up.
5. Use a steam bowl – Putting your head over a steam bowl and covering it with a towel, just before going to bed, can also work wonders to clear out, and reduce any swelling in your nasal airway that might be a contributing factor. Also keep your sleeping environment as clean and dust free as possible.
6. Use nasal strips – If your problem stems from obstruction in your nasal passageway, using nasal air strips can help increase airflow.
7. Avoid alcohol—Alcohol, and other muscle relaxing or sleep aid drugs will relax your tongue and throat muscles even more, making your snoring worse.
8. Avoid milk – Yes, drinking milk, especially at night, can also make snoring worse as it leaves a layer of mucus in your mouth and throat, so stick to plain water.
9. Avoid big meals late in the evening — Don’t eat a big meal right before bed time. If your stomach is full it can push up against your diaphragm, further limiting your ability to breathe easy