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January 2022

7 Tips for Living with Sleep Apnea

Sawing logs. Catching z’s. Grabbing some shut-eye. Whatever you call it, sleep is a big part of your life—and it plays a big role in your health. But if you have sleep apnea, sleep can be unrestful, frustrating, and even dangerous. Thankfully, you can take some steps to manage your condition and improve your quality of life.

A common and serious problem

When people have sleep apnea, their airways narrow or get blocked during their sleep. This causes short periods when the person isn’t breathing. The pauses can last a few seconds or even a few minutes, and can happen hundreds of times in one night.  

If sleep apnea is left untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other ailments. It can also lead to excessive tiredness during the day, which increases the risk of falling asleep while driving. But if you have sleep apnea, you don’t have to let the condition control your life.

Try these tips for living with sleep apnea

  1. Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, shedding some pounds can help relieve your sleep apnea, and in some cases even cure it.

  2. Befriend your bed. Get as many good nights of sleep as you can. Sleep deprivation can make sleep apnea worse.

  3. Stay away from tobacco. Tobacco can irritate your airways, which may already be closing up as a result of your sleep apnea. If you smoke, talk with your health care provider about quitting.

  4. Don’t drink alcohol before bed. This can make your sleep apnea worse.

  5. Know your limits. Untreated sleep apnea can make you tired during the day. If your apnea isn’t being treated, or your body isn’t responding to treatment, you may want to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.

  6. Find some support. It may help you to know you’re not alone. Ask your healthcare provider about local support groups, or find one through the American Lung Association or the American Sleep Apnea Association. Family members can also help by providing emotional support and helping you follow your provider’s treatment plan.

  7. Rely on your healthcare team. Your sleep apnea can be treated. The most common treatment is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This is a mask that fits over your nose, or your nose and mouth, and blows air into your airway to keep it open while you sleep. Other treatment options include mouthpieces, surgery, and nerve stimulation.

However you and your provider decide to treat your sleep apnea, it’s important that you follow your treatment plan as closely as possible.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, BSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Williams, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2018
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