Should sleep apnea sufferers moderate their alcohol intake?

Although alcohol consumption is not a direct cause of sleep apnea, it could worsen the symptoms of the condition and impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Indeed, alcohol relaxes the airway muscles and diminishes a person’s ability to wake themselves up when they have stopped breathing.

This is particularly concerning for sleep apnea sufferers who are prone to stopping breathing during sleep. If they stop breathing after drinking alcohol, they will likely have to go without oxygen for a long period of time. When they wake up, therefore, they may experience heightened feelings of fatigue and, indeed, more intense hangover symptoms.

Alcohol can also keep you awake

Whilst you may fall asleep faster after a night of drinking, you may find it difficult to stay asleep. This is because alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to regulate melatonin levels, rendering sleep less restful overall. For sleep apnea sufferers who already experience problems with insomnia, this kind of disruption could make symptoms much worse.

Sleeping well after drinking

Just because you have sleep apnea does not mean you should completely abstain from alcohol. There are various methods you should follow to mitigate its impact on your body, however. These include:

1. Monitor your intake

Try not to consume too much and stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before you get into bed. This will give your body time to metabolise the drinks. If you’re struggling to keep your intake down, try looking into low-alcohol or alcohol-free options that you can sip during social occasions.

2. Always use your CPAP machine

This goes without saying, but it is always best to use your CPAP machine if you have one, particularly after drinking. If you’re a little tipsy it may be tempting to skip this vital step, so make sure to remind yourself a number of times before your evening is over.

3. Sleep on your side

Sleeping on your side allows gravity to open your relaxed airway, helping you to breathe more easily and potentially making your CPAP mask more effective. In fact, sleeping in this position is a good idea even if you have not been drinking.

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