Sedentary Lifestyle and Swollen Legs Contribute to Snoring

July 8, 2019 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Sedentary Lifestyle and Swollen Legs Contribute to Snoring
Do you ever wonder how mankind has survived for so long without CPAP machines? Millions of individuals now use CPAP machines or other devices every night because of snoring concerns and sleep apnea. While breathing and sleep may improve, CPAP users breathe in plastics and have a higher risk for sinus infections from the germs that build up in the tubing or unit.

Understanding why you or your loved one snores is important to take charge of your health. One reason for snoring pertains to fluid build-up in your lower body during the day. Fluid that accumulates in the legs and lower body shifts upward when you lie down during sleep. Management of this fluid may help you sleep better through the night and have less fluid retention in your legs during the day.

Fluid Circulation


Underneath your skin is a vast network of blood and lymphatic vessels that provides thousands of miles of fluid transport throughout your body. In the circulatory system, blood circulates through the body through large arteries, medium size arterioles and then finally to tiny capillaries. About ten percent of blood and fluid is filtered by capillaries.

Capillaries are very thin, petite blood vessels made with a single layer of epithelial cells which work on microcirculation. Their job is to bring oxygen and nutrients into cells and to remove cellular waste products by returning the trash to the circulatory system to be processed by other organs. Capillaries rely on the heart and physical movement for the fluid management.

Some of this fluid around the capillaries doesn’t get back into the circulatory system. It remains there in the tissue for the lymphatic system to manage. The lymphatic system must remove this interstitial fluid or water, proteins, and other waste products in the local tissue. Every day, as much as one to two liters of fluid may be left in tissues waiting for lymphatic trash removal.

When the fluid enters the lymphatic vessels, it travels upward through the lymphatic system towards the heart. It then gets dumped via the thoracic duct into large veins behind the heart between the shoulder blades. The lymphatic system does not have a “pump” like the heart and circulatory system; it relies on movement and breath to push fluids along. If this process is inefficient or challenged, then fluid retention occurs.

Gravity, Inactivity, and Fluid Shifts


Gravity and inactivity are daily factors that affect capillary-lymph fluid exchange and lymph return or microcirculation. As a result of a sedentary lifestyle and gravitation pull, lymphatic fluid can substantially build up in the lower extremities during the day. Then, when you lie down at night and gravitational forces aren’t working as much against circulation, fluid naturally redistributes to the chest, neck, and throat where it will be managed through the circulatory system and kidneys. This ends up increasing nighttime trips to the bathroom. This fluid congestion shift from the legs to the chest and neck is known as the “rostral fluid shift and is a significant reason for snoring and sleep related concerns.

Fluid Retention Clues


Fluid retention in the legs can be easily seen with sock line indentations in the ankle or calf. Your calf muscles and ankles may also feel tight or appear visibly swollen at the end of the day compared to when you awoke. Varicose veins may be more problematic.

Fluid retention may even occur in your arms and hands. Rings and watches may feel tight and leave indentations on the skin. If you go for a walk or do other physical activity, you may feel your hands and fingers tighten up with fluid retention during or after the activity.

For some individuals, there may be muscle tightness in the upper back that contributes to decreased lymphatic fluid management. Remember that muscle activity and breath are required to move lymph fluid. If you carry tension in your upper back from computer work, “text neck”, driving or have poor posture, then lymphatic drainage may be impacted because of muscle spasm, and how the diaphragm and breath are affected by posture.

Allergies, colds, and other upper respiratory conditions create considerable amounts of cellular debris and waste products. This too increases the amount of fluid retention. All too often, snoring worsens when allergies or cold symptoms are present.

Impact of Sedentary Activity and Fluid Management


Sitting more than 6 hours per day has been proven to cause health problems, including cancer. Prolonged sedentary activities cause more than that. Excessive sitting decreases blood flow in the legs which over time adversely stresses the endothelial lining in vessels and capillaries. This makes capillaries less effective in managing fluid exchange. This can even happen in young healthy adults.

Lack of activity from excessive sitting adversely affects mitochondria in the legs, blood vessels, and heart. Over time, this affects energy production and how nutrients move in and waste products move out of cells. Lactic acid will more readily accumulate in tissues as there is decreased tissue oxygenation. This increases concerns with snoring and sleep disorders.

In addition, tissue oxygenation will decline as mitochondria are not being used as much from lack of physical activity but also because you are not breathing in as deeply with sedentary activity. Engaging even in light activity increases depth and amount of breaths compared to sedentary activities. Remember that lymph fluid moves by physical activity and breath.

Obesity and Asthma


When rostral lymphatics shift with sleep in individuals with obesity and/or asthma, the congestion has a more pronounced effect. Bronchioles in the lungs are often already more constricted in these circumstances which make for more difficult breathing, sleep disorders, and snoring.

Modern Life and Less Activity


In a time when modern comforts and desk jobs have afforded many individuals the “luxury” of a less physical work, this lifestyle has actually created other problems like fluid retention, lymph congestion, fatigue, more snoring, sleep disorders and the increased need for CPAP machines. The list of health concerns caused by sedentary lifestyle goes beyond that to heart disease, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, cancer, deconditioning and more.

Tips for Lymph and Microcirculation Support


In order to enhance microcirculation support, exercise and physical activity are of prime importance. Three hours per week of high intensity interval training (HIIT) helps improve snoring and fluid obstruction that interferes with breathing and sleep. HIIT is a great way to get in quality exercise with less time.

If you have a desk job, are a student, or are an over-the-road driver who sits for extended amounts of time, you must find ways to engage in physical activity. Whether it is walking around the office for 2-5 minutes every hour, running up and down stairs between appointments or classes, or doing knee bends, stretches or an extra 500 steps every restroom break, it will help your body’s fluid movements. Get up and move every hour. Try standing at your desk when you can while working or get a standing desk. If you can’t get up and move, try doing as many toe-heel raises or leg isometrics as you safely can when driving or sitting and repeat it as many times during the work shift as possible.

Nutritional support such as horse chestnut extract, grape seed extract, bromelain, quercetin, arabinogalactan, resveratrolbeta glucan, olive leaf extract, vitamin C, and cordyceps can support lymphatic movement and microcirculation. Other support may be needed if the lymphatics and immune system are overloaded from a cold or allergies.

Rosacea, gut problems, heart problems, food allergies and swollen adenoids, ear congestion, toxins affecting the liver and kidneysvaricose veins and other sources of inflammation may contribute to or reflect circulation and lymph congestion requiring other support.

Some individuals may need to wear compression stockings and garments to help circulation. Others have to compensate for poor circulation by putting their feet up at the end of the day for several hours. Lymphatic massage, other types of body work and stretching can also be helpful.

Aging Well Requires Good Microcirculation


A recent article published June 2019 proposed that “aging is the process of continuous impairment of microcirculation in the body.”  Snoring and lower extremity swelling provides clues about your microcirculation. Do you get a nudge at night to roll over when you are snoring? Or are the sock lines on your calves troublesome? If so, your microcirculation is calling to you for help.

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