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Sleep Deprived? How Better Breathing Can Lead to Better Sleep

Sleep Deprived? How Better Breathing Can Lead to Better Sleep

 

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.[1]

 

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.”[2] 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.”[3] 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.

 

 

 

Sources:
[1] http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx
[2] http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/weight-loss-breathing-devices-still-best-for-treating-obstructive-sleep-apnea-201310026713
[3] http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/asthma-and-sleep

Kids With Asthma: The Quest for Quality Sleep

Kids With Asthma: The Quest for Quality Sleep

 

Everyone can think of a time when they didn’t get enough sleep – that heavy, groggy feeling lingers throughout the day, and that dragging usually indicates you’re not operating at your best. When children don’t get enough sleep, they also feel the effects, which usually make them cranky and difficult, and their performance at school could suffer. Of course, with the advent of technology, kids are arguably more sleep deprived than ever – but sleep deprivation can have natural causes, too. Kids who struggle with any breathing difficulty, whether it’s allergies or asthma, can lose precious hours of sleep in their quest to simply breathe.

 

Too little sleep can affect a child’s growth and immune system. Sleep-deprived kids can have a hard time waking up in the morning, feel tired throughout the day, and have trouble functioning, paying attention, and thinking clearly. Sleep allows the body to rest and recharge for the next day – and it’s also the time when children’s bodies grow the most.[1]

 

Each day we breathe in and out about 20,000 times.[2] Those 20,000 breaths can be quite difficult for a child with asthma, especially at night when attacks are more likely to occur. Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory lung disease that causes airways to tighten and narrow when a person with the condition comes into contact with irritants such as pollen, smoke, dust, or pet dander. Several things can play a part in causing asthma such as environmental factors, genetics, allergies, and respiratory infections, the most common trigger for asthmatic children under the age of five.

 

According to the CDC, nearly seven million children under the age of 18 have asthma, making it one of the leading, serious, chronic illnesses among children in the nation. It is the third-ranking cause of hospitalizations for children under the age of 15 and it’s the #1 reason that kids and teens chronically miss school.[3]

 

For parents of kids with breathing difficulties, establishing a relationship with their pediatrician is paramount. The doctor can recommend medication therapy as well suggest environmental changes the parent can make to ease the child’s symptoms. Certain factors – such as odors, pets, chemical sensitivities, and nutrition – can either ease or exacerbate the problem. Making sure the home environment is as clean and irritant-free as possible is also key in lessening symptoms.

 

Vacuuming often and with a machine equipped with a HEPA filter will help reduce the dust, dander and dirt that gets trapped in upholstery and carpet fibers. Additionally, using a high-quality air purifier can go even further in eliminating potential irritants from the home’s environment.

 

A child who is sleeping through the night – without coughing, struggling to breathe or dealing with a stuffy nose – is going to feel and perform better throughout their waking hours. And every kid deserves that.

 

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.helendevoschildrens.org/body.cfm?id=453&action=detail&ref=81790&cat_id=144

[2] http://woodtv.com/2015/03/04/when-asthma-affects-your-childs-sleep

[3] http://www.helendevoschildrens.org/