Sleep apnoea and snoring
Who here snores?
I ask this at my workshops and presentations and most people respond “not me!”
Our snoring not only affects the people that sleep around us, it affects our own sleep too. If you’re snoring you’re not getting the most restful sleep you could.
Snoring and sleep apnoea:
We often look for external causes for both these things, whether they’re happening to us or those around us, and that’s where we look for things to help us fix the issues. We try using plates for our mouths, nasal dilators, different kinds of machines etc. but, you don’t just have a breathing problem at night. If you’re experiencing these symptoms they’re actually indicative of a breathing problem all the time. If we start working on the problems through the day we can make some headway towards solving the night symptoms as well.
Let’s talk about snoring.
There are two types of snoring.
Through your mouth
Through your nose
They sound completely different.
It might be gross, but do it with me – try doing a mouth snore. It sounds scratchy and gurgly doesn’t it? And try again but through your nose. It has a more snorty, grunty sound to it, right? Different sounds, but both annoying.
There’s a few things that contribute to the snoring.
If you sleep on your back you’ll be more prone to mouth snoring because your jaw naturally drops open, which can be resolved by rolling to your side (or rolling your bed-buddy over onto their sides), and this might relieve the snoring. However, it isn’t a permanent fix. We also need to look at their breathing rate through the day. Fast breathing through the day contributes to fast breathing at night which will encourage the body to breath through the path of least resistance and try and get more air into the body by breathing through the mouth, thus creating the snoring.
To help with this we can do two things.
Through the day we need to teach the body to breathe slower. Teach the body to breath more through the nose.
At night, train the body to sleep with the mouth closed.
How do you train your body to sleep with your mouth closed?
We can work on that in two ways. What I have found helpful myself, as an ex-snorer, is to use sleep tape. There’s a few options you can use, 3M or 5M tape such as Nexcare that is for sensitive skin, and you can tape it vertically or horizontally across your lips, literally taping your mouth closed. In my clinic I also have sleep tape, which I personally use, that goes around the mouth. So instead of immobilising your lips, it gently encourages your mouth to stay closed by limiting the movement of your face, while still being able to open your mouth if you need to. It’s not like gaffertape or electrical tape, it’s a gentle way to train your body to sleep with your mouth closed.
How long does it take?
If you’re using a combination of slow breathing through the day and mouth tape at night it can take 8-12 weeks of consistent practice to shift your body’s patterns.
After using the tape for a while, myself, I have noticed that I now wake up with my lips pressed together, which is the weirdest feeling, but it’s just my body’s response to sleeping with my mouth closed. Funny story, I was a mouth snorer and started using tape. But then I started nose snoring. Gah! This was because I was breathing too fast through the day and so my body was trying to keep up that habit at night.
This might sound creepy, but stick with me. Try that snoring sound through your nose again. Get that grunt noise going in the back of your throat. Ok, now try making that same sound but doing it slowly. You can’t. You can’t make that sound slowly. If we think about what’s going on here, that sound is being created by sucking air in quickly through a small passage.
So, if we breathe slower, and train our body to breathe slower through the day then our body will slow our breathing down in our unconscious states and won’t try to suck as much air in through either our mouth or nose. And over time this will stop our snoring.
If you have any questions about the sleep tape please do reach out.
Ok, let’s talk about sleep apnoea.
This is really super common, what happens during the day when we’re breathing too fast – your body tried to compensate by trying to balance the oxygen and carbon dioxide by yawning or sighing frequently. At night what happens is your body will breathe in fast, then hold its breath – so it’s regulating the balance by stopping breathing altogether. The other thing can happen is obstructed sleep apnoea is that you’re breathing fast and trying to get lots of air in quickly through a small airway. If you think about it like breathing through a straw, and if you suck on it really fast it closes and nothing can get through. If you suck on it gently the straw will stay open and allow that air to come through. This comes back to, again, how fast you’re breathing during the day.
What we can start to do is know that there is an answer, a solution. You don’t have to use a machine. Sometimes the interventions are necessary but there are other options to give you power over your sleep breathing.
Start with looking how you’re breathing through the day, see if you can teach your body to breathe slower and then subsequently teach our body to sleep with our mouth closed to prevent over-breathing. When we start to fix this night time breathing you’ll wake up with more focus, better concentration, more energy, all of these things fall into place and your whole life starts to change. How we breathe when we’re asleep is a game changer.