How do you practise self-care? The phrase can mean different things to different people. Some consider an afternoon nap a good form of self-care – others believe it’s a haircut or a relaxing massage. The Self-Care Forum defines it as: “the actions that individuals take to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.”
This starts with simple lifestyle choices, such as brushing your teeth, eating healthily or choosing to exercise. It then progresses to taking care of yourself when you have a minor illness, like a cough or cold. This is often done by using over-the-counter medicines.
Why is self-care a good thing?
Practising self-care gives you greater control over your health. By doing a little research, you can proactively take care of any minor ailments. This reduces the number of GP consultations you make, and enables GPs to focus on caring for higher risk patients (such as those with comorbidities, the very young and elderly, and those managing long-term conditions).
An increased personal responsibility around healthcare improves your wellbeing. It also helps you manage long-term conditions when they do develop. Most importantly, by practicing self-care, more money can be spent where it’s most needed within the NHS.
Sleep and snoring: where can you start?
By dealing with your snoring, you can significantly improve your sleep and your health. Many people feel exhausted from being woken up by their partners (or even themselves) in the night. Self-care can start with a few simple lifestyle changes. Alcohol, smoking and being overweight can all increase your risk of snoring, so it’s a good idea to closely monitor these factors. A recent Snoreeze survey showed that only 20% of people who believe they snore due to alcohol have stopped drinking or limited their alcohol intake. Just 13% who think they snore due to their weight have changed their diet.
If lifestyle changes don’t work, a snoring relief product could help you get a better night’s sleep. Educating yourself is key when it comes to self-care – and not many people are aware that there are different types of snoring. This means that different products will treat different types (congestion, everyday snoring, loud snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea – OSA). If you’re not sure what type of snorer you are, click here to find out which category you fall into, as well as recommended products.
When should you visit your GP?
You should visit your doctor if you suspect you might have OSA. Snoring is caused by the soft tissue in the back of the throat vibrating when your airway relaxes during sleep. But in some cases, the airway becomes so narrow that the walls of the airway stick together and close up. This usually happens for around 10-30 seconds at a time, but can occur for longer – sometimes up to 50 times an hour or even more. When the airway finally opens up again, you might emit a loud, violent snore. This event is known as an apnoea.
OSA is a serious condition; if left untreated, it can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Your doctor will be able to recommend the treatment most suitable for you. Once you’ve been diagnosed, you’ll be able to manage your self-care of the condition at home. This will most likely be with a CPAP machine, or an oral device.
Top tips from the experts
OSA charity Hope2Sleep supports patients with all kinds of sleep-disordered breathing. This includes OSA, Central Sleep Apnoea, snoring and Upper Airways Resistance Syndrome (UARS). Founder Kath Hope suggests the following tips:
- Refrain from alcohol within 3-4 hours of bedtime
- Try to sleep on your side, as OSA and snoring is usually worse when sleeping on your back
- Sleep slightly elevated by raising the head of the bed by 4-6 inches
- Ensure your nasal passages are clear of congestion by using nasal sprays/nasal strips.
Mike Dilkes is an experienced ENT surgeon who has successfully treated thousands of patients with snoring problems. His clinic, HealthHub, is based in south central London. He suggests:
- Lying on your back is a no-no. Position is very important in trying to cure snoring. Gravity makes your tongue flop backwards and can partially obstruct your breathing. This triggers snoring.
- If you’ve been snoring for years, you may respond well to anti-snoring throat exercises. In Mike’s book, “Stop Snoring – The Easy Way”, he outlines exercises that can improve throat muscle tone.
Self-care starts with your snoring
By making the necessary changes, you could see a huge improvement in your health and wellbeing. Reclaim your sleep and take the first step to a more peaceful bedtime.