Sleep Apnea

Q: I just have a question about a breath exercise for my mother who has central sleep apnea, a condition where, during sleep, the brain does not send the proper signal to the lungs to breathe. She’s under the care of sleep professionals and was recently prescribed a sleep mask, but has trouble wearing it at night. Is there some sort of breath exercise that you know of that can reprogram the brain to fall back into the habitual pattern of communicating with the lungs during sleep? Thanks for your help .

Let's start by defining terms. Sleep apnea is a condition in which the repeated stop and start of breathing during sleep can engender an interruption of airflow to and through our inner organs. Due to lack of oxygen supply, our brain activates the system to wake up from deep sleep to reinstate our normal breathing patterns. This results in frequently waking up at night, loud and constant snoring, and becoming exhausted due to disrupted sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequently occurring disorder.

Sleep apnea and related symptoms are considered by Auryveda to be a vatta (air) imbalance. Sleep apnea can be rectified by yoga and lifestyle methods and appropriate professional medical treatment. These entail using supporting devices (oxygen and c-pap machine) to provide continuous passage of air through the nostrils, as well as regular exercise, pranayam to improve lung power, heart functioning and maintaining healthy body weight.

Have your mom do this breath before bed. Breathing long, slow, and deep: inhale nose, exhale mouth, inhale mouth, exhale nose. Have her gently interlace her hands over her navel and as she exhales she should gently press her hands into her navel. Sitting up if possible. She should avoid sleeping on her back.

In situations like this, it's important to help people understand the correlation between habit and (seeming) happenstance. For instance, smokers have a higher correlation of sleep apnea. It's also very important that tension in the solar plexus is allowed to release. There are medications for many of the things that befall us humans but very often they address symptoms, not prime causes. It's analogous to disconnecting the engine lights on our car's dashboard and declaring the car mechanically sound. Very often the prime cause is actually the cumulative effect of many factors, thus we need to counter that with many factors: how we eat, sleep, exercise, and think.

5 Traditional Herbs for Sleep Disorders

• Ashwaganda
• Sarpagandha
• Jatamansi
• Nirgundi