Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that is identified through stops and continuance of breathing while sleeping. The pauses of the breathing could happen any time during sleep and it could last from a few seconds to a few minutes. An individual with sleep apnea may produce sounds like snorting or choking and loud snores.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. The obstructive sleep apnea happens when the muscles in the throat relax causing the airway to be blocked during sleep. It is also the most common type of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea happens when the brain is unable to send breathing control signals to the respiratory control center. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is the combination of the two.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include reduced breathing while sleeping, breathing can also stop for a few seconds or a few minutes. Once breathing continues, a choking sound may be heard. A person with sleep apnea also frequently snores loudly during sleep. Some may experience shortness of breath, which may cause the individual to gasp for air.
People with sleep apnea experience fatigue even after sleeping the night before. A decrease in concentration, motor skills, and attention can be noticed. There is also difficulty in sleeping and noticeable irritability.
Complications of Untreated Sleep Apnea
- Sleep apnea is a serious condition. If left untreated, there are a lot of complications one can experience.
- Sleep apnea disrupts the flow of oxygen in the body which results in an increase in blood pressure. The risk of hypertension is increased, as well as other heart problems like heart attack, stroke, and irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation.
- Sleep apnea also increases the risk of an individual to get type 2 diabetes and developing resistance of insulin in the body.
- Liver problems and chronic kidney disease are common in people with sleep apnea. Livers show signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease resulting in a poor functioning liver.
- Metabolism is negatively affected by sleep apnea.
- Individuals with sleep apnea have a higher risk of getting renal, skin, and pancreatic cancer.
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is a yogic technique that allows the control of breathing. It is from the Sanskrit words “Prana” which means “breath” or “life force” and “Ayama” which means “to control”. Pranayama involves different breathing techniques with different benefits.
The breathing technique in Pranayama involves different muscles in the body such as the abdominal, thoracic, and clavicular. The practice of Pranayama is an essential part of yogic traditions. Since breathing is an important part of life, controlling the way we breath gives access to all the health and spiritual benefits it has to offer.
Pranayama is good for alleviating sleep disorders. It helps in strengthening the respiratory system which will help improve the flow of oxygen in the body.
5 Pranayama for Sleep Apnea
1. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama or Alternate Nostril Breathing
This Pranayama helps stimulate the brain waves by balancing the alpha and beta waves. This helps relax the mind and will improve concentration, focus, and attention. It also releases accumulated fatigue and tension in the body.
Sit with a stretched spine in a comfortable asana. Put the left hand on to the lap with upward palms or in Chin Mudra while the right hand is lifted to the face. Place the index and middle finger between the eyebrows. The ring finger and the pinky should be on the left side of the nose while the thumb is on the right. Use these to close and open the nostrils alternately. Inhale through the left nostril, close it and release the right nostril, exhale. Inhale through the right nostril and release the left nostril, exhale. Repeat alternately.
2. Bhastrika Pranayama or Breath of Fire
This Pranayama helps oxygen to flow to the brain. It is good for the motor and nervous system. While it energizes the mind and the body, it also keeps it relaxed and calm. With a calm body and mind, it also helps prevent anxiety and depression.
Start in a comfortable position. Beginners may start with a sitting position. Keep the spine straight while eyes are closed, and hands placed on knees or in Jnana Mudra. Breathe in filling in the lungs with air and breathe out through the nose with force. Breathe in and out exaggeratedly like someone panting.
3. Bhramari Pranayama or Humming Bee Breath
This helps promote blood circulation which maintains the blood pressure. The calming effect helps reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. A good remedy for headaches and migraines. It is also effective for curing paralysis and migraine. Practice advisable for pregnant women to help maintain the endocrine system and easier childbirth.
Sit in a comfortable position. Inhale and exhale naturally. Close the mouth and breathe in through the nose slowly and steadily. Exhale while making a soft humming sound.
4. Ujjayi Pranayama or Ocean Breath
It helps to unblock the nadis in the body and allows Prana to flow. Improves mental clarity and memory. The immune system is strengthened, and it also supports the balance of fluid in the tissues. Helps relax and calm the mind and the body.
Sit in a comfortable sitting yoga pose with eyes closed. Relax the mind and body. With closed mouth, constrict the base of the throat. Inhale deeply through the nose until lungs are full of air. This should produce an audible sound. Exhale moderately and steadily.
5. Kapalbhati Pranayama or Skull Shining Breathing
This breathing technique helps clear the airways and cleans the cranial sinus. It also helps remove toxins by generating heat in the body. Kidneys and liver functions are improved as well as the body’s metabolism. It gives balance and sensibility by improving memory and focus.
Sit in a comfortable asana. Keep the spine erect and head straight. Hands can be placed on the knees or in Jnana Mudra while eyes are closed. Breathe in and out deeply while relaxing the body. Inhale deeply again through the nostrils while the abdomen is expanded. Exhale vigorously making the abdominal muscles contract forcefully. Repeat.