Almost 936 million people world over have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, another lifestyle-related disorder on the rise globally. Patients of sleep apnea report shallow breathing/ no breathing for a few seconds to minutes every night. These pauses occur more than once during the entire period of sleep! The fallout of the condition can range from fatigue, stress, anxiety, lower productivity, cognitive disruption and even death in severe cases.
Central, obstructive and complex are three types of sleep apnea reported world over, with obstructive sleep apnea being the most common.
In central sleep apnea, the transmission of message between brain and the muscles enabling the movement of windpipe is broken, that causes shallow breathing or the breathing to pause for a few seconds.
In obstructive sleep apnea, the windpipes collapse during sleep, obstructing air passage from 10 seconds to minutes in some cases. Obstructive sleep apnea is closely related to obesity. Some of the other factors that are known to be causative for obstructive apnea include age factor, presence of fat deposition and soft tissues around the windpipe, inflamed tonsils, and sinus issues due to a deviated septum, among others.
According to Ayurveda, sleep apnea could be caused by impaired agni or digestive fire, high Tamas, aggravated kapha and vata. Some of its symptoms include
- Hormonal imbalance and impaired ghrelin and leptin levels due to poor sleep. Rise in ghrelin levels could increase hunger and make weight problems worse.
- Impair brain functions.
- Cardiovascular issues
- Low productivity
How can Ayurveda help?
Herbs like ashwagandha, jatamansi, shankhpushpi and sarpagandha can help improve cognitive functions which are affected in apnea patients. Intake of these herbs reduces anxiety and stress-conditions associated with obstructive apnea. These herbs have restorative qualities and help induce sleep, calm the brain and nervous system. Sarpagandha is effective in treating sleep-related disorders and it also lowers blood pressure.
A unique gift from the ancient healing system of Ayurveda is a very special treatment called Shirodhara, one of the most calming relaxation therapies for modern living. It comes from a combination of two Sanskrit words- Shir or ‘head’ and Dhara or ‘stream’. In this deeply soothing process, the scalp and forehead receive a steady and gentle stream of lukewarm medicated herbal oil poured in an ancient pattern stimulating points covering the whole of the forehead. Shirodhara rejuvenates and enlivens the central nervous system (which is affected in case of central sleep apnea) that gets clogged with residual stress, worries, erroneous eating and lifestyle habits, and work pressure. It treats various conditions related to the nervous system, and/or conditions rising from a vitiated Vata Dosha, like sleep apnea.
Since conditions like sleep apnea are a result of vitiated kapha and vata doshas, oil massages are a great option to help balance the Vata dosha and reduce kapha aggravation. The nose is the door to consciousness. Nasal Therapy helps to clear and lubricate the sinus passageways, relieving acute and chronic sinus problems such as allergies, mucous congestion, dry nasal passages, and snoring. The process of administering herb-infused oils into the nasal cavity also helps to relieve headaches, sinus related migraines, reduces anxiety, clears and strengthens the mind, and stimulates the nervous system. You do not sleep or lay down immediately after this treatment.
It is important that you take the nasal therapy under the supervision of an expert Ayurveda therapist. It also matters, what kind of nasya oils are used, how it is administered, what kind of precautionary information is provided to you and how you are helped through the entire treatment.
To treat the symptoms ofsleep apnea like severe anxiety, fatigue, disoriented nervous system and stress, Abhyanga is one of the most popular and commonly recommended therapies in Ayurveda that incorporates warm, aromatic oils, rhythmically massaged into your body, which loosen toxins, relax the nervous system, and provide rest, nourishment, and rejuvenation. It improves blood circulation, tones and moisturizes skin, works up the lymph system, and calms the mind and nervous system. Shankara’s Soothing Body Oil is one such offering. It is a soothing blend of essential oils that are known for their relaxing and de-stressing qualities. Made from essential oils of almond, grapeseed, sunflower, borage, evening primerose, lavender, sandalwood and chamomile, this nutrient rich body oil also helps address worries of the mind, over critical thinking, irritability and anger! An oil for hypertension and stress release is also an oil for a perfectly calm and relaxed mind!
5. Karna Purna
In treating sleep apnea, a lot is to do with calming down the nervous system and to do that, Vata dosha needs to be brought into balance in the body. Karna Purna is a treatment designed to calm your nervous system and create a deep stillness. Warm oil is gently, slowly poured into the ears, lubricating the ear canal, calming the mind, and soothing the nervous system. When the ears are bathed in oil, the mind and body automatically calms, creating a state of deep relaxation. It also importantly, balances vata dosha.
Where can you find best therapists for treatments like Nasya, Karna Purna and Shirodhara?
Nestled atop the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, is the award winning Shankara Ayurveda Spa, within The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone. Lose yourself to the hypnotic beauty of a natural life replete with soul gratifying, rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatments tailor-made to your body constitution and needs, healthy, nutritious meals and lessons in easy-to-do yet deeply calming meditative techniques and Yoga. There could not have been a better way to let go of the stresses and knots of tension that we carry in our system from work, life situations or personal relationships on a day to day basis.
Disclaimer: The conditions and illnesses could also be due to a mix of Dosha imbalances. Please do not try to self-diagnose. This article is purely for informational purpose. We strongly recommend you consult a Sri Sri Ayurveda physician for a thorough examination of your constitution and its balances/imbalances.