The 10 Best CPAP Pillows
How Yo Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea
Sleep is supposed to be your refuge, the one place you can go to get away from all the stress and troubles of life (at least until you have that nightmare about the spider-clown again, that is). Finding out that you're not even sleeping correctly can be demoralizing, to say the least.
Sleep apnea is a potentially-serious condition that affects around 18 million Americans. It happens when your breathing gets blocked or interrupted in the middle of the night, whether because your airway gets closed off or because your brain fails to properly control your breathing while you sleep.
It's no joke, either. When your breathing gets disrupted, it causes your oxygen levels to drop and your blood pressure to rise, which could lead to issues like hypertension and high blood pressure. Not only that, but poor sleep can be linked to mood and memory problems, as well as affecting your performance at work and your ability to drive safely.
That's usually the first sign of sleep apnea — poor sleep. If you're constantly feeling groggy or sluggish even though you got plenty of shut-eye, it could mean that the sleep you're getting isn't truly restful.
Snoring is another huge risk factor. When you can't breathe freely, the tissues in your nose and throat vibrate, causing snoring. So, if you snore, you can be certain that your airways are at least partially blocked — it's how much they're blocked that's the question.
If you share a bed with someone, ask them to check on you through the night and see if you stop breathing at any point. Chances are your snoring is disrupting their sleep as well, so they'll be more than happy to help remedy the situation, whether by taking you to a specialist or by holding a pillow over your face until you stop struggling.
If you live alone, ask your doctor to set you up with a machine that monitors breathing and heart rate overnight.
Certain people are more likely to have it than others. Smoking is a huge risk factor, as is being overweight (especially if you have a thick neck). Men are more likely to suffer from it than women, especially older guys. Anyone with nasal problems, like a deviated septum, should also get checked out.
The good news is that sleep apnea is easy to treat, usually by making lifestyle changes or using a CPAP machine. Surgery is sometimes needed, but not often. Regardless, the positives outweigh the negatives, as there's really no substitute for quality sleep.
Besides, you'll need to be well-rested for when the spider-clowns come for you.
Ways To Help Deal With Sleep Apnea
Anyone dealing with sleep apnea should talk to their doctor and follow their recommendation, whether it involves using a CPAP machine, wearing a mouth guard, having surgery, or anything else. However, there are also a few lifestyle changes you can make to help alleviate the condition.
The two big ones are to lose weight and quit smoking. We know, we know — you're tired of being lectured about doing something you already know you should do. We won't pile on, but just know that it'll be hard to really solve your problem if you don't tackle these issues first.
Getting plenty of exercise can also help clear out your airways, even if it doesn't result in any weight loss. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day — this can be anything from a brisk walk to a full-out cardio extravaganza.
Try to avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed, and lay off any tranquilizers or sleeping pills if you can. These can all relax your muscles (that's the point, right?), causing the tissue in the back of your mouth and throat to sag, obstructing your breath.
If you're a back sleeper, switch to laying on your side. This keeps your tongue from lolling back and blocking your throat while you're dreaming.
None of these tips are enough to solve a severe case of sleep apnea on their own, but they're all capable of reducing the symptoms — and some of them are just good for you regardless of how you sleep.
Tips For Sleeping Comfortably With A CPAP Machine
Wearing a CPAP machine can take some getting used to. Some people find them extremely uncomfortable, and if using one interferes with your ability to fall asleep, that defeats the whole purpose.
The first thing you need is a good pillow. The ones on our list are all solid choices, and they can accommodate a wide range of sleeping styles, allowing you to get some z's comfortably.
Make sure the mask has a proper fit as well. You may need to do a lot of tinkering and adjusting to get it just right, and it's important to ensure it has a tight seal. One way to do this is to wear it for brief periods during the day; this allows you to check for any comfort issues while helping acclimate you to wearing it.
If the air pressure bothers you, some machines have a "ramp" setting that starts off with very little pressure and slowly builds overnight. You should be asleep long before it gets to the correct setting.
Be aware that their are different mask styles, so if you just can't get yours to sit comfortably on your face no matter how hard you try, it may be time to switch to a different model.
Beyond that, just be patient. This is a big change to your sleep patterns, so give yourself some time to adjust. You'll get used to it eventually, and once you start experiencing what real sleep feels like, you'll never want to go back.