Did you know that asthma and sleep apnea are related? According to studies at the University of Wisconsin, if you suffer from asthma you have over 40% chance of developing apnea, against less than 30% if you do not have asthma. Both asthmatics and sufferers from sleep apnea are much more likely to exhibit unstable breathing control during the day. Improving your day-time breathing habits can really help with both problems.
In addition, both asthmatics and apnea sufferers are more prone to mouth breathing which can also exacerbate both conditions. So training yourself to breathe in a healthier way may help you get even better results from your CPAP machine and feel healthier during the day too.
Four Ways to Improve Breathing Control
There are four ways you can improve your breathing control. First, always breathe through your nose – your mouth is for eating and talking, your nose for breathing. Second, make sure you are using your diaphragm rather than just your chest muscles when breathing.
Then learn to breathe in a slow relaxed way. If you can slow your breathing rate down to about 6 breaths a minute from a normal 14-16, you will find it helps you relax and get better control of your breathing.
Finally, gradually practice extending the time you can hold your breath. Do this AFTER exhaling and try not to over-breathe at the end of the hold. If you can get the time up to about a minute, you will find it will really help with your breathing control. Keep a note of your progress as it should track with an increased benefit from your CPAP machine.
Breath Training Exercises
Of course, all of these changes can’t be learned overnight. In fact, it takes about six weeks of dedicated daily exercises to modify the breathing control centers in your brain through a process called neuroplasticity. When you learn to breathe in a relaxed way, you can actually see the changes in the brain.
Breathing exercises that have been shown to help with apnea control use a technique called “mild periodic hypoxia”. This method consists of holding your breath several times between short periods of relaxed breathing. By doing this you are actually simulating a sequence of apnea events. After each breath hold it is important to return to normal breathing without gasping or hyperventilating.
This gradually trains your brain to automatically detect the onset of a breathing interruption and correct it before getting into the typical vicious circle of stopping breathing and then gasping for breath that is witnessed in sleep apnea. You can learn more about these exercises at breathesimple.com. Sleep well.