If you snore loudly, wake up gasping for breath, or experience daytime sleepiness, you may have sleep apnea. It is important to visit your ENT specialist if you develop these symptoms to determine if you are a candidate for a sleep apnea procedure that may help you feel better while improving your health. In the meantime, here are three easy ways to help reduce the frequency and intensity of your apneic episodes:

1. Elevate Your Headboard

When you lie flat in bed, your neck can compress your trachea, blocking your airway. This can worsen snoring and even lead to episodes of breathing cessation, a common, but dangerous symptom of sleep apnea. While sleeping on a couple of pillows can help elevate your head, raising the head of your bed with wooden bed risers will help even more.

Doing so will help diminish snoring and improve your breathing pattern. Wooden bed lifts or risers can be purchased at your local home improvement center or neighborhood hardware store. 

2. Check Your Medications

Certain medications can also raise your risk for sleep apnea. These include blood pressure medications known as beta blockers, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, and sleeping pills. These medications relax your airway and may even cause your tongue to slip back into your throat, leading to airway blockage and subsequent sleep apnea.

In addition to this, the aforementioned medications may also cause severe acid reflux, another risk factor in the development of sleep apnea. If you take any of these medications, check with your physician who may be able to recommend alternative treatments. 

3. Manage Your GERD

If you have GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, you may be at a greater risk for sleep apnea. When stomach acid rises into your esophagus, it can inflame and irritate your airway which can exacerbate snoring and apnea episodes. If you have GERD, acid reflux disease, or severe heartburn, talk to your doctor about what you can do to reduce excess stomach acid.

Over-the-counter antacids can help neutralize stomach acid, and acid-blocking medications can help suppress or block the release of stomach acid before it reaches your esophagus. Avoiding trigger foods such as coffee, citrus fruits, peppermint, and chocolate may also improve your symptoms.

If you snore or wake up gasping for air, make an appointment with your physician. He or she may recommend that you undergo a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea. A sleep study will require that you spend a night in a hospital sleep lab so that technicians can evaluate you. The results will then be forwarded to your physician for further evaluation and treatment. 

For more information on snoring surgery, contact your local sleep study center.