Sleep apnea includes a range of sleep disorders related to breathing difficulties during sleep that lead to insomnia, daytime tiredness and higher risks for pulmonary diseases. The most common type is obstructed sleep apnea, caused by blockages in the airway. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, is characterized by gaps in breathing due to a neurological issue. Some mild herbs can help with relaxing and improving the quality of sleep for those suffering from sleep apnea. However, herbs should not be considered an alternative therapy to sleep apnea, but, instead, a complementary practice to discuss with a medical provider.
Valerian root has a long history of use as a natural sleep aid. Its medical properties remain largely unknown; however, the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports that short-term use of valerian root can improve the quality of sleep, as well as shortening the length of time for falling sleep. As sleep apnea sufferers often have complex insomnia due not only to breathing obstruction, but also confusions with the sleep-wake cycle, valerian may ease symptoms temporarily. In another review of valerian, The Office of Dietary Supplements reports another study indicting that valerian was just as effective as the pharmaceutical oxazepam for improving sleep quality, but with less side effects.
San'o-shashin-to is a Chinese herbal remedy that has some research potential for sleep apnea. In a 1999 case study published in the journal for “Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences,” researchers concluded that this herbal remedy decreases the number of apneas, or gaps in breathing, possibly due to the herbs’ alleviating effects on the upper airway resistance during sleep.
Evening primrose oil and borage oil contain essential fatty acids that may play a role in lessening allergic response and inflammation for sleep apnea sufferers, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center article on complementary medicine for sleep apnea. These supplements can be added to the diet or administered before bedtime. Again, herbal treatments are no substitute for medical care, but they can assist in lessening symptoms of sleep apnea when combined with tradition care.
Homeopathic herbal remedies continue to gain in popularity for the treatment of sleep apnea. Practitioners generally prescribe specific remedies for individuals based on emotional and mental concerns, as well as their sleep apnea symptoms. However, the University of Maryland Medical Center notes in its article on the complementary practices of sleep apnea that sambucus, an elderberry varietal, may lessen nasal obstruction. Remember that homeopathic treatments should only be administered by a certified homeopathic practitioner.