Sleep apnea, as previously mentioned, is a serious medical condition in which breathing is limited for a brief time (from less than a second to a few seconds). Limited breathing means that either you stop breathing, or are limited in your breathing ability. This interrupts sleep and brings you out of deep sleep into a lighter phase of sleep.
There are two types of sleep apnea; central sleep apnea in which your brain does not send the signal to breathe, and obstructive sleep apnea in which there is a physical obstruction to breathing.
CPAP/BiPAP and oral sleep appliances (mouthpieces that hold the jaw and tongue in position) are the common treatments for sleep apnea. Some people have trouble sleeping with a CPAP or may have a claustrophobic feeling. In these cases an oral sleep appliance (mouthpiece) may work to resolve apnea in a more comfortable manner.
If you use a CPAP, make sure to have a heated humidifier. Note that there are various PAP (positive airway pressure) machines. CPAP is continuous pressure, BiPAP has two levels of pressure, APAP is “automatic” meaning the pressure delivered by the machine is continuously adjusted.
You need to visit a doctor to get diagnosed for sleep apnea. Fill out a sleep diary so that the doctor can get a few weeks of sleep data from you. Eventually, you would go to a sleep clinic during which a polysomnogram is attached to you.
This will monitor your breathing, oxygen levels, and brain activity. The sleep clinician may decide to give you a CPAP machine in the 2nd half of the night and measure how that improves your sleep.
If you are having trouble breathing while sleeping, you should also go to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor. If your nasal passages are blocked, you may have a deviated septum. In this case, a septoplasty will help you breathe better.
Sleeping on an incline (20-30 degree angle) where your head is above your feet can also help for some sleep apnea cases. Either the whole bed can be at an incline, or just from the waist up.
New technology as of 2014 is a surgically implanted neurostimulator (https://www.inspiresleep.com ) which sends a signal to a nerve in the jaw to move the tongue forward.
This is referred to in the New England Journal of Medicine here: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa130865. 2/3 of trial patients had benefited from this device and compliance was higher than that of a standard CPAP machine.
There are also jaw surgeries available for sleep apnea as described here: https://www.aasmnet.org/Resources/PracticeParameters/Review_SurgicalModificationsOSA.pdf
These are best reviewed with a sleep specialist because surgical techniques are regularly advancing.
For minor breathing issues, there are “Breathe right strips”, these are adhesive strips that expand the nasal passages slightly. There are several studies on nasal strip effectiveness (this particular study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10582117 shows a positive effect on respiratory disturbance). Even people who do not consider themselves to have sleep apnea or breathing issues can benefit from these strips.
For nose congestion, try using nasal rinses or a neti pot. These use water to flush out the nasal passage and remove mucus. Make sure to use sterile water mixed with some salt and baking soda (otherwise this will sting). Sterile water is advised to avoid infections. I use this regularly in colds and it helps clear up the nasal area very well.
The Best Sleep Supplements Reviewed
I have written many reviews about the best sleep supplements. If you want to know how these sleep supplements work and if they can help you sleep better, you may read the sleep supplements reviews below:
Sleep on an earthing mat
The idea of sleeping on an earthing mat, or directly on the earth, comes from the claim that the body will build up electrical charge over time. In order to discharge this, you need to be “grounded” so that the electrical charge imbalance leaves your body.
In previous times, humans were much more physically in contact with the Earth. Furthermore, humans did not have to deal with internal wiring, cell phone radios, and other human-generated EMF activity.
The idea is the EMF fields around you will have a measurable voltage in your body. These need to be discharged so that you are in a “natural electric state” (grounded). The suggestions are to reduce EMF in your common environments (bedroom, office, sitting area) and also keep yourself grounded so that there is a minimum voltage difference between you and the earth.
There are strong proponents and also strong critics of this idea. There is a question about the mechanism of action, and I would submit that proponents of this idea will use explanations of how earthing is based on questionable scientific statements. I believe the idea has merit, without claiming to understand the science behind it.
Three studies are:
There are earthing kits available for beds and workspaces. For do-it-yourself, watch this very interesting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wPqh4DNfwg
EarthPulse and SomaPulse PEMF Devices
EarthPulse is a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) device used to promote cellular metabolism and healing. This device entrains the brain by means of magnetic fields and is said to help you sleep more quickly and deeply.
Hearthmath EMWave systems
The heart is the centre of emotion and has its own set of neurons, and directs the brain in many different functions. Measuring heart rate variability is a way to view the health of the autonomic nervous system.
The term heart rate variability refers to the variation in the beat-to-beat interval of the heart. By
measuring heart rate variability, we introduce the possibility of improving heart rate variability through biofeedback. One specific idea is that resonant breathing biofeedback training focusing on the heart can reduce stress (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23294659 ).
HeartMath is a company which makes products that allow HRV monitoring via the pulse. They make specific programs and protocols that can address issues such as mental performance, stress, and insomnia.
Quantum Pendant Scalar Energy
I am listing this item for completeness. This is a stone, one component of which is Japanese volcanic lava. There are various videos and sites on the internet claiming its legitimacy and also claiming it is a complete scam. I have no idea whether it works, or not.
Furthermore, we would need a way to distinguish the fake one from the real item (since most people believe it doesn’t work, people are more prone to use fake rocks rather than special rocks).
I would personally avoid this as I have read claims of radioactive pendants. Unless there is some personal knowledge you have regarding the particular stone and the effects on the body, there are hopefully other treatments that can help you sleep.
There are traditional sciences that state that particular stones (gemstones) have effects. Carnelian (Aqeeq) is a particularly well-known stone and has benefits across a wide range of healing traditions.
Although these are not validated in western science, these sciences should not be discounted, particularly that the understanding of the quantum nature of the world has not been fully explored. If you would like to explore healing stones, you should talk to an expert in the area.
Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES)
CES consists of the application of a small, pulsed electric current across a patient’s head. CES is said to support serotonin production and promote an alpha state in the brain.
CES is FDA approved for clinical use in the US for the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia and there are home devices available. Some manufacturers are:
- Fisher Wallace https://www.fisherwallace.com
- Mind Alive Inc: www.mindalive.com
- Alpha Stim https://www.alpha-stim.com
- Neurofitness LLC www.cesultra.com
Audio-Visual Entrainment (AVE)
AVE is a form of brainwave entrainment. Brain waves can be affected, specifically entrained, to external rhythmic stimuli. AVE uses lights and sounds in a wave pattern to modify brain waves into a desired state.
This is done with headphones and special glasses. The result is different waves in the brain can be created. For stress, AVE can be used to increase theta and alpha waves. For sleeping problems, slow delta waves can be used to enhance the brain’s production of delta waves.
Professionals can perform this therapy and there are a few home devices on the market, for example the DAVID Delight Pro (combined CES and AVE machine)
Bio-Acoustical Utilization Device (BAUD)
This was invented by Dr. Frank Lawlis, an American doctor in medical psychology and the Clinic Director of the Lawlis-Peavey Clinic in Dallas, Texas.
BAUD allows you to disrupt unwanted neural patterns. The Baud is designed to emit sound frequencies that are common to brain frequencies. BAUD is cleared and registered with the US Food and Drug Administration.
Trans cranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
tDCS is a low current, constant current delivered to the brain via electrodes on the scalp. A constant, low current delivered to the brain area of interest via electrodes on the scalp. There are experts that can offer equipment and protocols that use tDCS to treat insomnia. Two relevant studies are:
tDCS and CES both use electrical currents. CES works on the whole brain and tDCS works on specific parts of the brain. Note that tDCS is a constant current and CES is pulsed. If you are attempting any one of these treatments, I recommend consulting with an expert or experienced practitioner.
Relaxing each part of your body
You can try to get to sleep by imagining that each part of your body is successively going to sleep. Try breathing deeply so that your navel rises and falls, and breathe slowly. Now very slowly, imagine that the toes on your feet are falling asleep.
They should relax. After a few seconds, move to your feet and have your feet fall asleep. Keep in this state for a while, and make sure your breathing is slow and relaxed. Your feet should be very relaxed.
Now move up your legs and tell your knees to fall asleep. Slowly move up higher in your body,
all the while making sure the lower parts of the body are “asleep” and relaxed. Make sure you include your fingers, arms and your chest and then finally your head. The whole progression should take around 5 minutes and this may be able to get you asleep.
Counting Sheep and Imagining Relaxing Scenes
Counting sheep is a popular methodology for trying to get to sleep. The thought is that something boring will drive you to get to sleep. There is a study: Harvey, AG and Payne, S. (2002). “The management of unwanted pre-sleep thoughts in insomnia: distraction with imagery versus general distraction.” Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40:3 (267-277).
Subjects were instructed to either count sheep, imagine relaxing imagery, or do nothing. Counting sheep did not reduce sleep onset. Relaxing imagery, on the other hand, did reduce sleep onsite by 20 minutes on average.
The idea is that you are giving your brain something to focus on and thus prevent unwanted and potentially stressful thoughts from entering the mind. If you do want to try counting, I would suggest counting backwards (perhaps by 3) rather than forwards. This is more difficult and will use more of your mental focus.
Slow deep breathing
You can try deep breathing to get to sleep more quickly. Breathe in for 3-4 seconds, hold your breath for 3-5 seconds, and then exhale for 5-7 seconds, and again pause for 3-5 seconds.
- Inhale (4 seconds)
- Pause (3 seconds)
- Exhale for 5 seconds
- Pause (4 seconds)
Imagine your stress is leaving your body and you are sinking into your bed. This is a good practice even during the daytime because it will help you control your stress.
You can use the listed acupressure points to relieve stress and deal with insomnia. They are listed along with the Chinese name and short name.
- Bladder 62 (Shen Mai) B62
- Kidney 6 (Zhao Hai) K6
- Liver 3 (Taichong) LV3
- Spleen 6 (Sanyinjiao) SP6
- Pericardium 6 (Neiguan) PC6
This is best done with a specialist, as acupressure is a science in itself. The locations of these points can be looked upon the internet; this way you can see the actual massage strokes.
Practically, this should be done in a relaxed manner so your mind is clear and you focus on the acupressure.
Essential oils can help you relax and have a real effect on your body. Three well-known oils to help with your heart, and stress are rose oil, sandalwood oil, and lavender oil. You can use pure CO2 extracts of these oils, or steam extracts. Try to avoid hexane extracted oils.
Natural sleep-promoting supplements
If you require a little extra help to get a good night’s sleep, you might also consider trying natural sleep-promoting supplements.
Research shows that your body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that tells your brain it’s time to go to sleep. In other words, the primary function of this hormone is to let the body know when it is time to go to sleep so that it will relax and sleep easily.
However, melatonin’s production and release cycle fluctuate with the time of day, with levels naturally increasing in the evening and falling in the morning.
This is one reason melatonin supplements have become popular, especially when the melatonin cycle has been disrupted, such as that associated with jet lag.
Resurge is one of the most popular melatonin supplements that promise to help you sleep better.
Although more research is needed, current evidence suggests that melatonin can be useful in helping people get to sleep. When taken for short or long periods of time, melatonin supplements appear to be safe for adults, according to studies.
Resurge supplements might allow your body to absorb enough melatonin to maximize your natural melatonin production. Apart from that, it is also marketed as a weight-loss supplement because epidemiological studies show that insufficient sleep is associated with a higher risk of obesity.
However, since the supplement industry is barely regulated, you might want to read some reviews for the Resurge supplement before making any purchase.
A Note on Waking Up Alarm Clocks
There are a few alarm clocks that have interesting features. They have the ability to determine your stage of sleep and wake you up in Stage 1 of sleep. This was the initial intent of the Zeo – wake up at the best time of the sleep cycle. There are now apps that measure movements at night in an attempt to approximate this. Since they only use movement, I estimate they are less accurate. If you do use an app on a mobile phone, I recommend putting the phone in “airplane mode” so that you do not sleep near the EMF waves.
The ability to produce light. Some alarm clocks will simulate a natural sunrise. Make themselves hard to turn off. Some alarm clocks (particularly on mobile phones) will require you to solve math problems before they turn off.
Others will physically move across the room. Ideally, as you wake up at the same time each day, the alarm clock can be a backup to your natural wake upcycle.
You can use the alarm clock for naps too. If you sleep longer than 20 minutes in a nap, you might as well go for the full sleep cycle to avoid waking up from deep sleep.
Sleep Efficiency and Sleeping Less
There are varied opinions about sleeping less. Standard western medicine does not offer too many options for someone who wants to sleep less. The one recommendation is to increase sleep efficiency by slightly limiting the amount of time available for sleep.
For example, someone who sleeps 8 hours may try sleeping 7 hrs 30 minutes and his or her sleep efficiency should improve. However, the typical regular recommendation is to get as much sleep as you can. Here is an equation that I have made up:
“Sleep obtained” = “Sleep efficiency” * “Sleep duration”
“Sleep obtained” should be less than or equal to “Sleep need”
The efficiency of sleep is the percentage of time spent in the Stage 3/4 and REM sleep. I don’t distinguish between these stages as both are considered necessary.
For example, if 50% of your time was spent in Stage 3 and 4 and REM, and you slept 8 hours, your Sleep Obtained is 4 hours. Your efficiency is 50%. The reason why only Stage 3 , Stage 4, and REM are considered are those are considered the “critical” stages of sleep.
Your sleep need is the amount of sleep you need. In the example above, if you needed 4 hours of Stage 3,4 and REM, then you would be fine. If your sleep needs were higher, then you would be tired. Perhaps your next day’s sleep efficiency would be higher, or perhaps you would sleep longer, in order to make up the deficit.
What is “Sleep Need”? It is simply the reason for sleep. We don’t know if it is a unit of time, or some other measure, because we don’t know the purpose of sleep.
Most of the sleep efficiency “hackers’ talk about increasing your sleep efficiency. These are actually mentioned in the previous chapter of this book already; techniques, supplements, or food that will allow you to sleep more deeply (another way to say efficiency). But how do we reduce our sleep needs? It is important to make this distinction, but it is not clear how to do this because doing so would mean we understand the full purpose of sleep.