Before using CPAP, I looked like a zombie when I woke up and would find it extremely hard to not fall asleep in cars/buses. After using CPAP and getting my AHI < 5, these symptoms improved but I would still wake up tired. Usually the more tired I woke up, the greater tendency I had to be emotionally overreactive… especially in a negative way. Therefore, I kept looking for ways to improve my sleep (with a focus on breathing).
The techniques I used are based on two principles.
P1: When we breathe heavy, our airway is more likely to collapse
Have you ever tried to drink something with a straw really fast? You can notice that once you get to the end of the drink and you’re taking in mostly air, the harder you try, the more the straw caves into itself.
I tried to reduce this from happening in my own body with the following:
- Breathing lightly and quietly but deeply using my diaphragm.
If you look at elite athletes who have good breathing to support their physical abilities, you’ll notice you can barely hear their breathing at rest. It’s super quiet… soundless. I tried practicing slower, deeper breaths to reduce the quantity of air I breathe.
Bonus benefit: less carbon dioxide is exhaled. Having more carbon dioxide in the blood means hemoglobin is more likely to allow oxygen to detach from itself and be sent to tissues (Bohr’s effect). This ultimately increases oxygenation of tissues.
- Breathing exclusively through my nose and using a mouth tape to enforce this during sleep.
When you breathe through your nose, you are a lot less likely to overbreathe compared to your mouth.
Also, the nose is designed for breathing: it can filter the air and add nasal nitric oxide which is involved in several different biological functions. Neither of these happen when breathing through the mouth.
P2: The tongue should be positioned properly
The tongue can fall back and partially block the airway and this is something I wanted to address:
- Making sure I always slept on my side; made it uncomfortable to sleep on my back.
Sleeping on your side makes it a lot less likely for your tongue to fall back and block the airway. I trained my body to always prefer the side sleeping position by sleeping without a pillow (like a caveman would back in the day).
Bonus benefit: the brain gets rushed by cerebral spinal fluid every night which is suggested to clear away toxic proteins. This process happens most effectively in the side sleeping position.
- Practiced mewing
After a year or so, my tongue naturally stays at the roof of my mouth and supports good facial structure. This also makes it less likely to fall back and impair my airway during sleep.
My AHI went from usually being around 2-3 to 0-1. That might not seem like a big change but the real life benefits were noticeable.
I no longer wake up tired! I’m better at controlling my emotions and my mood is far better.