Natural therapies are not normally my thing. If something is not functioning as it should, give me a pill. But one day on Ponsonby Rd I saw a sandwich board that claimed a cure for respiratory ailments. Among them, sleep apnoea.

If you know what this is, you probably also know why I was keen to be rid of it.

Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is a condition that stops you breathing for periods in your sleep. The periods can be long enough to alarm anybody awake in the same bed.

But you are blissfully unaware of it. You sleep like a carcass until your body at last calls for another breath. At that point you snort, gasp, shudder and heave, usually without waking.

You will not know its happening until you wake in the morning feeling slaughtered. Your throat will feel like sandpaper and your eyelids like lead. You will feel as if you haven't slept.

And actually, you haven't. Sleep clinicians explain that apnoea prevents you sinking into the deepest phase of sleep that the body needs. Those shuddering gasps for air keep bringing you back to the shallows without waking you completely.

It is called obstructive sleep apnoea because the experts think something is blocking your air passage, probably your tongue. A pharmacist once sold me a rubber device that fitted in the mouth and had a bubble out front to hold my tongue in a vacuum, preventing it sliding back into my throat during sleep.

I tried it but couldn't get to sleep with the thing.

Specialist sleep clinics, I understand, rig you up with an air pressure apparatus on your face overnight. That didn't appeal.

So on impulse I followed that sign from Ponsonby Rd to a house in a side street. Inside, a bright-eyed fellow named Glenn White was running breath correction courses. He reckoned the relief of respiratory conditions such as apnoea, snoring and even asthma was as simple as breathing through your nose.

He wasn't charging very much so I signed up.

At the first class he offered an explanation of apnoea. It had nothing to do with the tongue, he reckoned, and everything to do with sleeping with your mouth open.

He went on to explain the physiology of respiration and it made sense.

The body inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide. Breaths taken through the mouth tend to be shallow and rapid. Too much CO2 is lost and the blood compensates by releasing too little oxygen to bodily organs. Airways and blood vessels become constricted.

Apnoea is the body's method of restoring the balance by shutting down the breathing mechanism so that its CO2 can build up and oxygen can be released to its organs.

But if we could just acquire the nose breathing habit the body would let us have a deep sleep.

There was a ready test for this theory, known as Buteyko, the name of the Russian physician who propounded it. Next time your nose is blocked, close your mouth and slowly draw seem deep breaths through your constricted Nasal passages. On the third or fourth breath you will be clear.

Nose breathing is simple when you think about it but hard when you don't. White gave us exercises to do daily until it became second nature. I followed his regimen for as long as I could be bothered but it didn't change my habit.

I wonder if most natural therapies require unnatural patience and almost obsessive attention to bodily functions.

But he had one suggestion that has worked a treat. I want to share it because sleep apnoea is a dispiriting thing and others might find this works too.

He said we get a better sleep immediately by placing a piece of adhesive tape over our lips at night.

The idea was not to seal them completely - a vertical strip of micropore tape mid-lips would hold them together lightly and keep me breathing through the nose.

I tried it and woke the next morning feeling fresher than I could remember. I have been using the tape ever since and may do so for the rest of my life.

Doctors think it is dangerous and I dare say this column will be condemned by professionals. All I can attest is that it is now four years since White suggested this to me - only for interim relief - and I have not suffered the slightest respiratory emergency.

Occasionally the tape comes off during sleep, proving it could if the body needs air urgently, but usually it stays in place and I wake feeling great.

It is not a cure - if I forget to put the tape on I still regret it in the morning. But it works. If you can't get a good night's sleep, try it.