Alcohol and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder which affects a person’s breathing when he or she is asleep. This makes it quite obvious that alcohol and sleep apnea do not go well together.
Intake of alcohol is known to affect a person’s muscles to relax which can worsen sleep apnea. There are cases in which excessive intake of alcohol can cause sleep apnea and many other sleeping disorders.
This happens because alcohol has the tendency to alter a person’s natural sleep sequence and also the duration they stay asleep. It will also alter the time the person will fall asleep thus preventing one from getting quality sleep during the night.
How does alcohol cause sleep apnea and how does it make it worse?
Numerous studies have shown that people who drink a lot of alcohol tend to experience obstructive sleep apnea even if they have not been diagnosed with the condition.
The people who are at the highest risk of getting sleep apnea from heavy intake of alcohol are those who snore when they are sleeping.
Those who have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea tend to have their condition worsened when they drink alcohol. This is because alcohol usually increases the time between when your airway blocks up and you stop breathing and the time you wake up to take a breath.
This is very dangerous as the oxygen level in your blood is lowered much further and may even lead to a fatal condition called hypercapnia. This is the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the blood which can be very dangerous to the human body.
What are the effects of alcohol on nighttime breathing?
Alcohol intake before bed can have adverse effects on how you breathe and also the quality of sleep that you get.
Alcohol usually causes your throat muscles to relax which can make your upper airway to collapse thus causing you to snore in your sleep or even in extreme cases it can cause complete blockage of your airway.
Alcohol also has the effect of making your breaths shallow and also slowing down your breathing rate. This affects the amount of oxygen in your blood which can be fatal to you.
Alcohol is able to bring about all the above-mentioned effects because it is able to slow down the communication between the brain and the spinal cord.
A person’s breathing is usually controlled by the body’s central nervous system and thus drinking alcohol can cause disruptions to this process.
Effects of alcohol on apnea patients
- Increased episodes of sleep apnea during the person’s sleep.
- Reduced oxygen levels in the person’s blood.
- Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the body.
- Increased stress levels.
- Increased risks to get conditions such as hypertension, indigestion etc.
- Poor quality of sleep due to disruptions from sleep apnea episodes.
- Poor memory due to the lack of enough oxygen getting to the brain.
- Increased fatigue during the day due to lack of enough sleep during the night.
- In severe cases, alcohol-induced sleep apnea can cause death due to prolonged blockage of the airway.
- Increased risks for accidents due to the person being too sleepy during the day.
- Decreased productivity in a person’s social life and work.
- Increased chances for the patient to fall into depression.
- A person who has both sleep apnea and diabetes has increased chances to develop insulin resistance.
Who are at risk of getting sleep apnea/ worsen sleep apnea from alcohol intake?
The following groups of people are at a higher risk of getting sleep apnea or even worsening the condition if they had already been diagnosed with it due to alcohol consumption:
- People who are middle-aged and older.
- People who are considered to be overweight or obese.
- Individuals who were born with a condition that narrows their airway.
- People who engage in large quantities of alcohol consumption on a regular basis.
- Men have been proven to be at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea due to. alcohol intake. The risk gets higher with each additional volume of alcohol taken.
Should sleep apnea patients avoid alcohol?
If you like drinking alcohol on a daily basis then you will probably not like the answer to this question. It is advisable that if you are suffering from sleep apnea to abstain from the intake of alcohol. This is especially the case for those chronic drinkers.
If you cannot avoid the occasional alcohol consumption then it is vital you avoid consuming it several hours before going to bed. This will help you to minimize the effects of the alcohol on your sleep apnea overnight. Better yet, why don’t you substitute it with healthier beverages like tea to help with sleep?
It is important that you ensure you use your apnea treatment every night. You should also adjust the continuous positive airway pressure when you consume alcohol because the normal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP pressure) for your typical sleeping conditions may not be enough to push open your airway once you fall asleep.
Effects of alcohol on sleep apnea in men
We mentioned above that men have an increased risk of getting sleep apnea from the intake of alcohol.
Men have increased chances of developing sleep apnea even if they only drink moderately but often. The risk factor increases with each additional volume of alcohol ingested.
Men who have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea or other breathing related sleeping disorders should avoid the intake of alcohol at any time not just before bed. This is because the alcohol will make the condition worse and can sometimes even be fatal.
Men over the age of 30 who also suffer from sleep apnea should try and abstain from alcohol intake because they would increase their risk of getting other diseases such as hypertension and heart diseases. They could also suffer from an overall impairment of body functions.
How to minimize the effects of alcohol on sleep apnea
The following are some of the ways you can minimize the effects alcohol has on your sleep apnea if you cannot avoid drinking:
Ensure that you eat before drinking as well as while drinking.
Reduce the amount of alcohol you intake.
If you have to take alcohol, drink beverages with low alcohol content such as red wine in moderation.
Remember to take your sleep apnea treatment before falling asleep.
From the information provided above, it is clear to see that alcohol is not good for you especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Alcohol may help you relax but it also causes your upper airway to relax excessively thus causing a blockage.
It is common knowledge that the human body requires enough oxygen in order to function properly. If you get sleep apnea from excessive consumption of alcohol or if the condition is worsened, then there is a limited amount of oxygen getting into your body.
This can cause very many health problems for you. It can also affect the normal functioning of your brain which if one of the most important organs in your body.
Sleep apnea will also cause you to keep waking up during the night which will lower the quality and quantity of sleep you get during the night. This can lead to you being very dull and tire during the day which can interfere with your work and other social engagements.
If you find that you fall into any of the risk categories that we have mentioned above then we would advise you to abstain from alcohol intake. This is the only sure way to prevent you from getting sleep apnea or making the condition worse.
Always remember that alcohol and sleep apnea is a recipe for disaster.
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