Winter changes a lot about the physiology of the body that’s difficult to get used to unless you live somewhere with frigid temperatures year-round. Whether you like the winter or not, the cold weather will impact your respiratory system, especially if you have sleep apnea. In short, sleep apnea will get worse in the winter, but there are tactics you can implement to let this season melt away negative health side effects.
Winter and Health
No matter where you live, winter will impact your health in one way or another. By having an understanding of how the body sometimes negatively reacts to the cooler temperatures, you will be able to better take care of yourself and get better sleep.
- Headaches: Many people report an increase in headaches when the weather changes.
- Diet: The cold weather brings out the worst in people’s eating habits. It’s often the cold temperatures that make many long for high-calorie foods and warm sugary drinks. It’s important to continue eating nutritious foods during the cold months.
- Skin: The winter air dries out skin, hair and even lips. It can be very uncomfortable and even painful.
- Mood: Many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months. It’s usually due to a lack of sun and causes depression and fatigue.
- Respiratory: With cooler temperatures come the cold and flu season. It can have a tremendous impact on the respiratory system, making it harder to breathe and sleep. This is even more troublesome for those with predisposed respiratory conditions and sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea in Winter
Unfortunately, sleep apnea becomes a bigger challenge in the winter due to the decrease in humidity. A 2012 study found this to be the case after sleep patients were studied over the course of a decade.1 It’s thought to be due to the dry air and increased use of fireplaces in the home that bring in smoke. Since sleep apnea becomes worse, it’s important to take measures to aid in a successful night’s sleep. As you go outside, take protective measures to prevent sickness or exacerbated symptoms.
- Always be sure your mouth is covered when going outside. Breathing in cold air can dry out the airway and lungs.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. Always have enough layers on, it’s better to be too warm and remove layers than too cold.
- Breathe through your nose and out of your mouth. Your nose helps to filter the cold air.
CPAP Device in Winter
The winter brings along an increase for the cold and flu, which can stand in the way of CPAP compliance and an overall restful night. Extra care should be taken when it comes to using and cleaning the device in the wintertime.
- Clean the CPAP daily: Although there are recommendations for CPAP cleaning that aren’t every day, it’s best to do so during dry seasons. To make the daily cleaning easier, we recommend using cleaning devices specifically made for CPAPs.
- Buy a humidifier: Most CPAPs have a humidification setting in them, but you should also have a humidifier for the room you sleep in.
What if I already have a cold or are sick?
Having a cold and sleep apnea can be very frustrating, but it will be worse if you don’t adhere to treatment. If your nose feels too stuffy for your mask, you may want to consider a full face mask. One of the reasons the cold air makes people get sick more often is that it dries out the breathing pathways. Normally, the nasal passage has mucus which aids in preventing germs from entering the body. In the winter, that mucus amount is smaller. Making sure your CPAP has a humidifier as well as your bedroom will help tremendously.
Jump ahead of your sleep apnea this winter by making sure the air is warm and humid for the best sleeping conditions. If you have questions or are seeing changes in your sleeping patterns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Advanced Sleep Medicine Solutions for help.
- Is Sleep Apnea a Winter Disease? Cassol, Cristiane Maria et al. CHEST, Volume 142, Issue 6, 1499 – 1507.