This article teaches you the issues that alcohol presents to people with obstructive sleep apnea. You’ll go over what alcohol does to your body. Then, you will review some factors that relate to sleep apnea.
Alcohol is seen as an “initiation” of sorts in our present culture. The majority of high school students just CANNOT WAIT to turn 21. Drinking is the “cool” thing to do at college parties. However, alcohol is not what its cracked up to be. That behavior early in our adult lives transcends into life-long habits, potentially causing multiple health issues!
While alcohol makes us feel good in the short term, the long term effects are not so nice:
The main theme here, is that alcohol makes sleep apnea worse!
“OSA is associated with impaired performance on a driving simulator as well as with an increased rate of motor vehicle crashes in the absence of alcohol consumption (9,10). Among patients with severe OSA, alcohol consumption at a rate of two or more drinks per day is associated with a fivefold increased risk for fatigue-related traffic crashes compared with OSA patients who consume little or no alcohol (15). In addition, the combination of alcohol, OSA, and snoring increases a person’s risk for heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke, and sudden death (16).” (Alcohol Alert No. 48)
Studies show that a person that does not have sleep apnea can show signs of the sleep disorder after a night of drinking. Alcohol causes your muscles to relax, therefore causing your “apnea’s” to last that much longer. The arousal response that your body has will not be as responsive, similarly to how your reaction-time is delayed.
The increase of your OSA symptoms causes the drops in your blood’s oxygen levels become more severe. Consequently, the issue leads to increased carbon dioxide levels in your body. In severe cases too much CO2 in your body can be fatal.
Alcohol increases the risk of heart-related issues, as does sleep apnea.
Heart related issues associated with alcohol abuse:
Due to sleep apnea your blood pressure increases at night to keep oxygen flowing to your heart and brain. Therefore, you have high blood pressure during sleep. Normally blood pressure decreases 10-20% during sleep. However, with sleep apnea you will show an increase in blood pressure of 10-20% instead.
The increased blood pressure that you experience during sleep will eventually occur during all hours of the day. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, heart attack. So, in a “guilty by association” term, sleep apnea affects heart disease.
The best advice I can give you is to avoid alcohol altogether! However, you are an adult and can make your own decisions. Instead, I advise you to avoid drinking at least 3 hours prior to bedtime. Lastly, use your sleep apnea treatment every night.
CPAP users that did not get tested under “normal” sleeping conditions should get re-tested. If you are a frequent alcoholic beverage drinker, you need to get a sleep test done under those circumstances. Most likely, you did not have any alcohol prior to your sleep test. Therefore, the pressure from your CPAP machine will be incorrect for nights that you drink. Auto-machines (APAP) that can adjust the pressure throughout the night may avoid this issue.