Living with Sleep Apnea
There are things that you can control that might help your sleep apnea.
Things You can Control
•Diet and weight
•Medications, i.e., taking regularly
•Alcohol and caffeine use
•Smoking, vaping or other tobacco use
Some people find it easier to manage their weight once the sleep apnea is treated. You may snack more when you feel tired or sleepy. Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian to assist you with a healthy, managed weight loss program. Most people need long-term support to maintain a healthy weight. Your CPAP pressure may need to be changed after a substantial weight loss or gain.
Regular exercise has many benefits for those with sleep apnea including:
• Improved endurance
• Improved muscle tone
• More energy
• Feel less tension, depression and anxiety
• Helps with weight control
• Lowered blood pressure
• Improved circulation
• Reduced risk for heart attack or stroke
Small changes can make a difference:
• Walk daily (even short walks are helpful)
• Park a distance from the store and walk across the parking lot
• Join an exercise program
• Go biking with friends
• Check out community programs for activities that interest you
Before making any lifestyle changes or starting a weight loss program, consult your doctor.
Travelling with Your Machine
You should bring your CPAP with you anywhere you plan to sleep. If you are flying, bring your CPAP machine as carryon luggage. To make getting through security as smooth as possible, bring your CPAP prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining what your CPAP machine is, and that it’s medically necessary for you to use it. Your CPAP humidifier should be emptied prior to travelling.
The letter from the doctor should say:
• That your CPAP equipment is required for a medical condition.
• The model (For example: Airsense 10) and the serial number of all your equipment.
Check about the type of electrical supply in the country where you are travelling to as you may need a converter. You may also want to bring a battery pack and extension cord.
Anyone you see outside your sleep apnea team (ie. dentist, optometrist, other specialists etc.) should be aware of your sleep apnea diagnosis before you are prescribed any medications or treatments. Many different kinds of medications can make your sleep apnea worse. Please, discuss all your medications with your doctor and pharmacist, including herbal and over-the-counter remedies.
If you will be given sedation for a procedure such as dental work or outpatient clinic tests, please inform all the people looking after you that you have sleep apnea.
A medic alert bracelet speaks for you when you cannot. Sleep apnea is one of the conditions that can be listed on the bracelet.
Alcohol can make sleep apnea worse. Alcohol can increase sleep apnea events, snoring, and oxygen desaturations during sleep, therefore, increasing sleepiness and promoting weight gain.
Caffeine (a stimulant) can cause problems with sleep, especially if taken within four hours of bedtime. Caffeine is in many items including coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Try limiting caffeine to the
daytime. Decaffeinated drinks are a better option to consume before bed.
Nicotine can cause problems with your sleep cycle. Nicotine is in cigarettes, e-juice and other tobacco or nicotine products. People who smoke have a higher risk of sleep apnea. Smoking causes nasal congestion and irritation, which can interfere with your CPAP therapy.
Consider quitting smoking or vaping. Once you are ready to begin planning for the day you quit, there is help: your doctor, medication, self-help information and helplines. It is never too late to quit smoking or vaping.
Acid Refux (GERD)
Acid reflux, also known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or heart burn, often occurs when you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea along with obesity can cause an increase in abdomen pressure which may contribute to GERD. Stomach medications, weight loss and proper sleep apnea treatment can improve acid reflux symptoms. It is also helpful to not eat before bedtime and stay away from foods that may trigger reflux.
People with untreated sleep apnea are at greater risk of car accidents. The collisions are often severe and result in serious injuries.
Some Points to Think About
• In some provinces doctors have a duty to report sleepy patients who refuse to use CPAP therapy to their motor vehicle departments.
• Once you begin CPAP therapy, you can safely resume driving in 1-3 weeks. With proper treatment, by that point, your risk of having a crash becomes the same as other drivers.
• You should check with your insurance company or provincial driver’s license issuer about medical conditions that need to be reported.
• Be aware that your insurance may be void if you are not using your CPAP and you become involved in a crash because of sleepiness.