Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes. But if you experience sleep apnea or use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy to treat the condition, you know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, for many sleep apnea suffers, poor sleep hygiene only serves to make the problem worse.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to the daily habits and lifestyle choices that affect your quality of nighttime sleep. Cleaning up these bad habits can help you develop a sleep routine that promotes optimal nighttime rest and relaxation.
How to Improve Sleep Hygiene
- Get on a schedule. A consistent sleep routine helps your body fall into a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Go to bed on time and resist the urge to sleep in. Short daytime naps (no more than 30 minutes) are okay, as they can improve mood and give you a mental boost, but they are no substitution for nighttime rest.
- Eat and drink wisely. Avoid meals that are fried, fatty or made with heavy spices or citrus. These foods cause indigestion and exacerbate heartburn in CPAP users. Drink alcohol in moderation and not too close to bedtime. Stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, should also be avoided later in the evening.
- Stay active during the day. As little as 10 minutes of light exercise is enough to help sleep apnea suffers and CPAP users rest easier come bedtime. So take a walk around your neighborhood.
- Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Turn off TVs and mobile screens. Put on your pajamas. Do some light stretching. Read a book. Focus on things that help you wind down for the night.
- If possible, sleep on your side. This helps keep your airway open for unobstructed breathing. When you sleep on your back, gravity collapses breathing muscles and blocks your airway. Stomach sleepers are less likely to experience apnea, but this position can cause neck pain and may interfere with CPAP mask function.
- Consider a CPAP pillow. Many users complain about mask discomfort. For example, some masks dig into the skin and may leave marks on the user’s face. CPAP pillows contain indentations designed to alleviate this problem and can help align your neck and back.
Practicing proper sleep hygiene can help you get a better night’s rest. If you have questions about how your daily habits may be affecting your sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to consult your physician.