Modifiable Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea

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Modifiable Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea

If you experience daytime sleepiness or if you snore loudly, you may have sleep apnea, which can raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and even diabetes. While men are more likely to develop sleep apnea, women can get it too. If your physician believes that you may have sleep apnea, you may be referred to a sleep medicine doctor, who may recommend that you undergo a study at a sleep clinic like the one at Elkview General Hospital. While you are waiting to see your sleep specialist, here are some modifiable risk factors that you should know about that may help ease your sleep apnea symptoms.  


Obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Excess weight around your neck can obstruct your airway, which can cause you to stop breathing periodically during sleep. Similarly, excess abdominal fat can put pressure on your diaphragm, which can also impair an effective pattern of breathing. Because obesity is a modifiable risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, losing weight can significantly reduce your symptoms.

Weight loss can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Your physician can recommend helpful weight-loss interventions; however, if you are morbidly obese, talk to your doctor about bariatric surgery. Not only will this improve your blood glucose profile and lower your risk for strokes, hypertension, and heart attacks, but it will also help resolve your obstructive sleep apnea problem. 

Alcohol Consumption

Consuming alcohol before bedtime can cause your throat muscles and the muscles in the back of your tongue to relax too much, resulting in airway obstruction. This can cause more frequent and severe apneic episodes, which can lead to diminished blood flow to your brain.

Alcohol is also another trigger for GERD. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD can cause heartburn, sore throat, coughing, difficulty swallowing, and inflammation of the soft tissues of your throat. It is also another risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. If you are planning on drinking alcohol, try to do so at least a few hours before going to sleep.

If you have apnea, talk to your sleep medicine doctor about treatment options. While losing weight, limiting your intake of alcohol, and managing your GERD can help reduce your apnea symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you sleep with a special machine, known as a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure machine, to help keep your airway open.  

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