Did you know that the shorter days of winter can impact your biochemistry? As the autumn days grow shorter and sunlight diminishes, you will want to be proactive about your health, especially if you live with sleep apnea. Making sure you get enough vitamin D boosts your serotonin production, which regulates your sleep-wake cycles. Lack of vitamin D from reduced sunlight can leave you feeling depressed, extra drowsy and craving carbs.
Then there is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), whereas the season changes, leaving you feeling moody, sleepy, and chronically hungry. It is because it lowers your sleep efficiency, especially the all-important slow-wave sleep. SAD treatment is available through white light therapy, medications to boost serotonin levels, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to guide thinking so you can cope with stress in healthy ways.
Winter Related Health Issues
- Headaches: Headaches often get worse whenever the weather gets rainy or humid from barometric pressure changes.
- Dietary Health: As the temperature plummets, your body craves high-calorie foods and warm, sweetened beverages. Consume nutritious foods like omega-3 fats from oily fish, walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseeds to support your health during the colder weather. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and give your body the moisture it needs.
- Relaxation: Slow down and breathe with gentle yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation to get your energy moving in a good way and feel better.
- Mood: Monitor your mood, and watch out for depression and fatigue. Bundle up and spend time outside in the sunshine to soak up the sun. Open your blinds and curtains so you can bask in the natural light when indoors.
- Breathing: The changing weather also brings cold and flu season, making it harder to breathe and sleep, worsening any respiratory conditions and sleep disorders you already have, especially sleep apnea.
Thriving During Winter With Sleep Apnea
If your winter climate causes drops in humidity levels, dry indoor air and smoky fireplaces make breathing worse. Forced air heating with a furnace can also expose you to dryer air and allergens (such as dust mites) that may trigger allergy symptoms. Humidify your home when possible, and cover your mouth when you are outside. Instead, breathe through your nose so you don’t dry out your airway or lungs.
Your Sleep Apnea in Winter
Breathing problems caused by sleep apnea tend to worsen during the colder months. During the winter months, patients experience more nighttime breathing stoppages in comparison to patients treated for sleep apnea during the warmer months. The AHI is the sum of the number of apneas (pauses in breathing) plus the number of hypopneas (periods of shallow breathing). It tracks how your disrupted breathing affects your oxygen levels (typically higher in the winter).
Experiencing a clogged nose, fever or sore throat can also make your snoring worse. So what can you do? Make sure your CPAP is as clean as possible during the colder, drier months, so be sure to clean it every day! For better indoor air quality, invest in a humidifier, even if your CPAP has a humidification setting.
If you end up with a cold or sinus issue and your nose is too stuffy to breathe, a full face mask may help. Cold air dries out your nasal passages, lessening the necessary mucus that otherwise helps keep germs out of your body. Keeping the air moist can help. Be sure your CPAP air is warm and moist, as well as the air in your bedroom.
If you have sleep apnea, winter is the time to reexamine your health so you can do everything you can to get the essential sleep your body needs to thrive. Please give our team a call if you have any questions or concerns about snoring or sleep disorders. We are always ready to help!