Could avoiding salt-laden takeaways and crisps be the answer to curing your snoring?
That's what a new study by Brazilian researchers is attempting to find out. The team, based at the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, is trying to uncover any sort of connection between salt and the more extreme version of sleep disorders - sleep apnoea.
One in 20 people in Britain currently suffer from sleep apnoea, which is the disorder where a person temporarily stops breathing because their throat closes repeatedly. It can lead to heavy snoring and tiredness during the day and often people aren't aware they have it until a partner who points it out.
"The diuretic pill and low-salt diet will both reduce the patient's salt levels. It's thought excessive salt intake leads to a build up of fluid in the body - when the patient is lying down, this fluid shifts into the neck during sleep, leading to a narrowing of the upper airways, and sleep apnoea."
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Build time into your day for a bedtime routine-we are more like dimmer switches than ‘on-off switches’ so we need time to unwind. This may include a warm bath, a hot milky drink/chamomile tea and listening to some relaxing music or an audio book.
Pull your socks up
Wear socks to bed. Cold feet = a poor night's sleep. Due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body and studies have shown that wearing socks reduces night awakenings.
Use sunlight to set your body clock
As soon as you get up in the morning, go outside and get some fresh air for 10 minutes. The bright sunlight (or any bright light) tells your body’s natural biological clock that it’s time to wake up and that same clock will then be set to tell your body it’s time to go to sleep about 14-16 hours later.
Don't change your bedtime. You should go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day, even on the weekends! This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.
Change your bedding once a week and dust regularly. Fresh crisp sheets will help you get a better night’s sleep and clearing excess dust can help minimise any irritation in the airways, which could disrupt sleep. Review your bed linen for a better night’s sleep and choose sheets that feel comfortable against your skin. Research carried out by Lenor has shown that 74% of people surveyed slept drastically better on freshly washed bed sheets.
If you're too warm it can lead to a fitful night's sleep. Your body works hard to regulate your temperature while you're asleep, so help it along with cool, breathable cottons and keep the room cool at 16-18 degrees centigrade. If you share your bed and like different temperatures consider buying two separate duvets.
Exercise to sleep
Regular exercisers have better quality sleep. Aerobic exercise in particular has a significant impact on sleep particularly when it’s done in daylight so try to integrate exercise into your life by moving throughout the day eg getting off the bus one stop early, taking a walk in your lunch break etc.
Set yourself a technology cut off time
Computers, mobiles, smart phones and TVs all over stimulate our minds and ruin sleep, so try to turn them off at around 9pm. Where possible keep them out of the bedroom.
Room and bed sheet fragrance
Fragrances can set the tone of the room and generate a calming effect which will induce better quality deep sleep leaving you more rested, energetic and alert the next morning. Filling the bedroom with lavender or chamomile scents around an hour before bedtime will create the proper atmosphere for relaxation, sleep or romance. Try washing your sheets in fragrant Lenor fabric softener or alternatively place a few drops of relaxing aromatherapy oils on your pillow.
Sleep in complete darkness or as close to that as you can. There also should be as little light in the bathroom as possible if you get up in the middle of the night. As soon as you turn on the light, your body will immediately cease all production of the important sleep aid melatonin which regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
For standard snoring, the NHS advises losing weight if you are overweight, not drinking alcohol a few hours before you go to bed and giving up smoking.
For sleep apnoea, being overweight is one of the key problems, and it is not unreasonable to assume that a diet high in salt is also likely to be high in fat. Junk food, for instance, tends to have high quantities of both.
It is also a condition associated with hypertension (high blood pressure), which high salt diets are associated with. Recently, a study revealed that people with sleep apnoea are far more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
A study by the British Lung Foundation revealed that sleep apnoea is treated differently across the country, and that it is increasing because obesity is on the rise.