Sleep is essential for all humans. For many of us, however, true, restful sleep can also prove to be elusive. Not getting enough quality sleep can create negative effects. While one night of little sleep isn’t usually enough to put anyone at serious (and really, who hasn’t experienced a bad night of sleep before?), chronic sleep deprivation can create major problems like increasing risk of stroke, increasing the risk of diabetes, memory loss, becoming more accident prone, premature aging and higher chances of obesity.
As anyone who’s experienced allergies or asthma can tell you, struggling to breathe can also have a huge impact on the amount and quality of sleep you can get. This is especially true for children, whose brains are still developing, and who can be particularly affected by lack of sleep. Additionally, anyone with chronic breathing issues like sleep apnea or COPD can be more susceptible to sleep deprivation as well.
According to the American Psychological Association:
- More than 40% of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month.
- 69 % of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.
It stands to reason that improving one’s ability to breathe can have positive, far-reaching health benefits, one of which is achieving a better night’s sleep. So what are some ways to start breathing (and sleeping!) better?
- If you have excess weight, losing weight will help, particularly if you suffer from sleep apnea. The American College of Physicians recommends weight loss for people who are overweight or obese. Why? “People who are overweight have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep.” Otherwise, using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask at night can be necessary to regulate breathing (and facilitate sleep).
- If you have severe allergies or suffer from asthma, breathing well enough to get quality sleep at night could prove frustrating. According to The Sleep Foundation, “…rising cases of asthma could be the result of environmental factors such as an increase in exposure to pollution or indoor allergens.” Asthmatics often struggle with nighttime coughing, wheezing and breathlessness that can interfere with sleep.
Removing as many allergy and asthma triggers from the home – and the bedroom in particular – can help. Drapery, excess bedding, carpets & rugs, stuffed animals and pets can all complicate breathing for asthmatics.
Vacuuming regularly with a machine that is equipped with a HEPA filter can help remove allergens from the air. Investing in a high-quality air purifier can also go a long way toward greatly reducing contaminants, dander, dust and particulate from your indoor environment. Eliminating sources of odor – be it organic (mold, mildew) or synthetic (air fresheners, potpourri) – may also help. Improving the indoor air quality of your home can significantly improve breathing.
- If weight loss and significant improvements of your indoor air quality still aren’t helping you breathe better at night, visit with your physician. He or she might refer you to a sleep clinic, which will monitor and observe your sleeping patterns to see if you have an underlying sleep disorder. Or your physician might prescribe medication, such as a steroid inhaler, to facilitate better breathing.