Even in a mild Arizona winter, the cooler weather affects the ways our bodies function and react. And, like it or not, it will have an impact on your respiratory system, especially if you suffer from sleep apnea.
In short, yes, sleep apnea does get worse in the cold months of winter. Fortunately, there are ways to counteract the negative effect the season has on you and still get the quality sleep you need and deserve.
Sleep Apnea in the Winter
In 2012, a study was published that found that sleep apnea is more difficult in winter because there is less humidity in the air. (1) The study was performed on 7,523 patients of both sexes over the course of a decade. The lack of humidity in the natural environment and the use of fireplaces that bring smoke into homes are thought to be the leading factors of worsening sleep apnea symptoms. On top of this, cooler weather brings on the cold and flu season. Respiratory conditions and sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea can be severely impacted by such ailments.
Because sleep apnea can become worse this time of year, it is important to take proactive steps in preventing illness and exacerbated symptoms. Take such precautions as:
- Keeping your mouth covered when you go outdoors. When you breathe in cold air it dries out your airways and lungs. Protect them by breathing through a scarf or medical mask.
- Dressing for the weather. In Arizona, the weather can fluctuate a lot throughout a winter’s day. Going outside in the morning when it’s under 40 degrees in your T-shirt and shorts JUST because it will reach 70 degrees later in the afternoon is never a good idea. Protect yourself from exposure and overheating by incorporating layers into your wardrobe. It is better to remove something when you get too warm than to get sick because you were too exposed.
- Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Your nose can help to filter and warm the cool air before it reaches your lungs. Your nose hair will also help to filter out bacteria and infections that you may breathe in. (2)
CPAP Care in the Winter
The increase in cold and flu cases in the winter can make for a restless night for those who catch ill, and it can also lower CPAP compliance for those with sleep apnea.
In the winter, you should take extra care when you use and clean your CPAP device by:
- Cleaning the CPAP every day. Generally, it isn’t always necessary to clean the CPAP machine daily, but when the air is dry like it is in the winter, it is better to do so.
- Keeping a humidifier in your room. Most CPAP machines have a humidification setting on them, however, you should also keep a regular humidifier in your room when you sleep at night. Humidity is key this time of year!
What Should I Do If I Get Sick?
It can be extremely frustrating to have a cold when you have sleep apnea, but things could be worse if you fail to adhere to your sleep apnea treatment. Maybe consider using a full-face mask when you are sick if your nose is very stuffed up. Make sure the air in your sleep environment stays nice and humid by using both the humidifier on your CPAP device and an extra one in your bedroom.
Keeping your airways from drying out is key to getting a good night’s rest when you have sleep apnea and the weather is cold and dry. If you have questions about CPAP care or devices, don’t hesitate to reach out to Valley Sleep Therapy for help.