As anyone with sleep apnea will know, the most important action to take after diagnosis is to find an effective treatment option such as a CPAP machine. While the field of modern medicine has come up with some life-changing therapies to treat the disease, patients hoping to stave off their symptoms need to make sure that their lifestyle isn’t making their condition worse.
A range of factors can make sleep apnea worse, potentially rendering medical treatments less effective. These include:
1. Weight gain
Obesity is one of the main causes of sleep apnea as heavier people tend to have a greater build-up of tissues around the neck that can restrict the airway. As such, if an obese person diagnosed with sleep apnea gains weight, their condition will almost certainly get worse.
Unfortunately, sleep apnea can generate a vicious cycle of weight gain as the fatigue caused by the disorder can increase the appetites of sufferers. In this way, it is important that people with sleep apnea are mindful of their diet and exercise choices. If you find yourself reaching for mid-morning treats on a regular basis, try to distract yourself with other things and remind yourself of the importance of keeping your weight in check.
In the short term, alcohol can make sleep apnea worse as it relaxes the muscles in the throat. This means that the airway will be more easily obstructed during the night and sufferers are more likely to wake up at regular intervals. In the long term, therefore, regular alcohol use can cause fatigue (and all of the negative symptoms that go with it).
Smokers will already know many of the reasons why they should quit the habit, but those with sleep apnea may be unaware of the ways in which it can affect their condition. Indeed, as well as raising the risk of developing sleep apnea in the first place, smoking can irritate the airway, throat and tongue. In turn, this worsens the physical symptoms associated with the disorder.
4. Prescription medications
Some prescription medications such as muscle relaxants and painkillers can make the symptoms of your sleep apnea worse. Remember to talk with your doctor about your condition before you start taking any new drugs for other health problems.