How to Properly Breathe During Sleep
Breathing is something you generally do without thinking, but when you’re in bed trying to sleep, you may find breathing becomes more difficult. If you wake up short of breath or if anyone has told you that you briefly stop breathing in your sleep, you may have sleep apnea, which requires medical treatment, generally involving a sleep study for diagnosis and a continuous positive airway pressure machine for treatment. However, if your breathing troubles stem from a deviated septum, congestion or general snoring unrelated to sleep apnea, adjustments to your room and bedtime routine may help you breathe easier while you sleep.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Clear your nasal passages with an over-the-counter sinus flush device.
Take nasal decongestants at night if allergies cause congestion, and remove anything in your room that can trigger your allergies. If you take antihistamines, take them earlier in the day. Taking antihistamines at night can actually increase snoring, cites HelpGuide.org.
Apply an adhesive nasal strip over the nose. Research by the Biological Resources Engineering Department at the University of Maryland published in the October 2009 issue of “BioMedical Engineering OnLine” found that these nasal strips reduce nasal resistance to help you better inhale and exhale.
Run a humidifier to moisten the air. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat.
Tilt the head of the bed upward about 3 to 4 inches. This helps your tongue and jaw move forward for easier breathing. When your tongue falls back into your throat, it restricts your airway.
Change your sleep position to your side, especially if you sleep on your back. To keep you from rolling over to your back, pin a tennis ball to the back of your pajamas.
If at-home treatments don’t work and you have a deviated septum, talk to your doctor about the possibility of surgery to correct the problem.
Smoking increases your chances of snoring. Breathing better at night is among the many health benefits of quitting smoking.
If you are overweight, losing weight may help you breathe better while you sleep because it reduces the fatty tissue in the back of your neck that can cause snoring.
Avoid heavy meals, dairy products and alcohol before bed.
If you let obstructive sleep apnea go untreated, it may cause debilitating daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, depression and an overall sense of feeling unwell. Over time, sleep apnea leads to a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
- American Sleep Apnea Association: Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery: Fact Sheet -- Deviated Septum
- HelpGuide.org; How to Stop Snoring; Sarah Kovatch, et al.
- KidsHealth: Snoring
- “BioMedical Engineering OnLine”; Decrease of Resistance to Air Flow with Nasal Strips as Measured with the Airflow Perturbation Device; Lisa S. Wong, et al.; October 2004
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images