Alaska Sleep Education Center

4 Realities of Life with Sleep Apnea

Posted by Jennifer Hines

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on May 21, 2019 1:00:00 PM

Living with your CPAP machine


Everyone wants to receive a restful night’s sleep.  Humans are the only living creatures that will delay sleeping on purpose.  Every other animal sleeps when their body tells them to.  However, when you have untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) sometimes lack of sleep is inevitable.

Below are four realities of life to be faced when someone is diagnosed with OSA.

  1. Lifestyle Changes

  2. The Machine/Mask

  3. Traveling

  4. You are not alone

  1. Lifestyle Changes

Positional Therapy

cpap_mask_onAvoid sleeping in the supine position (sleeping on your back).  Sleeping in this position allows your tongue and throat muscles to relax easier and fall backwards into your airway and blocking it.  For those with mild OSA, simply changing sleeping positions can relieve some obstructions.

You can also raise the head of the bed.  A 4 inch increase has been shown to help reduce snoring and mild OSA. This may be due to the effects of gravity, which cause the throat to naturally narrow when lying flat or in the supine position.

Diet and Exercise

All patients with OSA who are overweight should attempt a weight loss regimen.  Weight loss will ultimately decrease the fatty tissue built up in the throat and aid in increased air flow during sleep.   Weight loss will reduce snoring and apnea episodes in many people.  With diet and exercise you will see a dramatic positive impact in the quality of your sleep and reduction in daytime sleepiness.

In addition to receiving daily regular exercise, it is also important to watch what food you eat.
  Some examples of foods to avoid before bed are:

  • Red Meat – Loaded with proteins and fats keep your body working when you are trying to rest

  • Celery – A natural diuretic that pushes water thru your system can wake you up in the middle of the night for an unscheduled bathroom break

  • Dark Chocolate – This healthier form of chocolate is loaded with caffeine and may complicate your efforts to receive a restful night sleep

  • Spicy Foods – Can cause indigestion in some people making it difficult to get comfortable and sleep well at night.

It is also suggested to avoid heavy meals within three hours of bedtime.   If you do find yourself hungry before bed, a lighter snack is recommended.  Snacks which contain tryptophan and calcium such as a bowl of cereal, cheese and crackers, or peanut butter on toast will be your best bet for a successful night’s sleep.

Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs

Quitting, or at the very least reducing, your smoking and alcohol consumption will help relieve certain OSA issues.  Smoke is an irritant that causes inflammation of the sensitive tissues in the throat and lungs.  Smoke increases the swelling of these tissues that increase obstructions. 

Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles allowing them to collapse into the airways and cause an obstruction. Avoid drinking alcohol 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.  This can help alleviate the likelihood of blockage. While alcohol can make you extremely drowsy it can also interrupt your entering the more restorative deep sleep cycles.

  1. The Machine/Mask

As if getting diagnosed with OSA isn’t enough, doctors are now telling you that you need to sleep with a positive airway machine and a mask!  Getting comfortable sleeping with your mask will likely be the most difficult part of your treatment.  Studies estimate 30-50 percent of CPAP users do not like the treatment; another survey discovered that about half of patients stop using their device within 1-3 weeks of it being prescribed. 

It is suggested to physically go into your local sleep center or clinic to test out the masks available.  This allows you to appropriately find a mask most suitable to your face.  You will be able to try the mask on, test the fit, check its weight and determine which mask will be most comfortable for you. 

Over time you will learn tips and tricks that work best for you regarding sleeping with your mask such as, at nighttime put your mask on before you start your machine.  You will see in time that this trick will help seal your mask better.  Below are links to the most common issues patients have regarding their mask:

Sleeping with A CPAP Mask: Problems, Concerns, and Solutions

Choosing the Best CPAP Mask: Pros, Cons, & Other Considerations

CPAP Therapy Compliance: Tips and Tricks to Make CPAP Treatment Easy

Don’t fall victim to these statistics!  Getting the correct mask fit is crucial in continuing your treatment.

  1. Traveling with Sleep Apnea

Don’t let OSA stop you from traveling the world.  Today with the increase of technology in the field of sleep medicine, sleep apnea patients can now travel with ease.  From travel specific therapy machines to more versatile accessories and updated FAA regulations, sleep apnea shouldn’t hinder your travel plans any longer. 

A little extra preparation when
planning your trip is all you should need.   Some ideas to consider when traveling are to:

  • Pack your CPAP as a carry on

  • Bring your prescription with you

  • Check with your airlines about on board use and electrical outlets

You can even travel to off the grid locations for hunting, camping, fishing, etc.  Watch the Transcend video below for more information on the versatility available for sleep apnea patients.

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You are not alone

It is estimated that 12 – 25 million Americans have OSA.  Sounds like a big gap right?  It is also estimated that 80% of people who have sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.

Sleep Disorder Support Groups

Since 12+ million American suffer from sleep apnea there is a huge community that can help you adjust to your OSA therapy.  There are people out there who have walked in your shoes and know exactly what you are going thru, you are not alone. 

Below are some of the most popular OSA support groups:

A.W.A.K.E. network
The American Sleep Apnea Association hosts an education and support group with some location meetings in your area.  

ASA Support Group Forum
The American Sleep Association hosts an interactive group discussion online.  You ask questions and receive answers for a variety of different sleep disorders such as OSA, Insomnia, Narcolepsy, etc.

CPAP Group Set Ups
Sleep centers or clinics often offer group set ups for their therapy machines.  If this is offered, you should attend.  This will allow you to meet fellow sleep apnea patients.  You can discuss pros and cons of machines, masks and accessories while in the presence of a specialized PAP machine expert who can help field questions and concerns.

At The Alaska Sleep Clinic we specialize in diagnosing sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.  Our SleepN program helps patients maintain their therapy so that they never have to suffer another night of lost sleep.  If you live in Alaska and are ready to get your sleep apnea taken care of once and for all, click the link below for a free 10-minute phone call with a sleep educator who can easily help determine if your symptoms require a sleep study.

Exclusive SleepN Program


Topics: life with sleep apnea

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