When the colorful trees and cool-to-mild temperatures of fall have come and gone, it means winter has come.
The change of the season can also mean a negative change in your nightly sleep habits, especially if you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). According to a study conducted in Brazil, “Respiration problems in sleep apnea appear to worsen during the colder months of the year.” 1 But these colder months and temperatures shouldn’t keep you up at night.
Wintertime and sleep apnea can be a harmful duo, but they don’t have to be. Follow along below for our best wintertime sleep tips, especially for those with sleep apnea.
Cold weather and sleep apnea
Low winter temperatures could mean problems for your obstructive sleep apnea. Difficulties like uncomfortable dry mouth, troublesome breathing and sinus headaches can make sleeping extremely unpleasant.
The Brazilian study discovered that people with sleep apnea suffered more nighttime breathing stoppages than people who sought treatment during warmer months. “During the winter, patients stopped breathing an average of 18 times an hour compared to 15 times an hour during the summer,”1 the study reported. Another figure showed that 34 percent of patients who received treatment in cold weather had severe sleep apnea compared to only 28 percent of people in warmer weather.2
The Importance of a CPAP humidifier
To help ease the difficulties caused by harsh winter weather, use your machine’s humidifier each night. It can provide a more comfortable night’s sleep by combating the effects of cold, dry air that causes chronic dry mouth.3
Do you own an older CPAP machine without humidification? If so, check with your equipment provider about getting a new one. Most insurance plans cover a new machine every 5 years. And if you’re using a ResMed Air10TM machine, be sure that you have a ClimateLineAir™ heated tube for the best humidification experience.
Best winter sleep tips
For some people, sleeping better in the winter may consist of throwing on an extra blanket or two when they lay their head down at night. But there’s more to sleeping well when the days are shorter and the temperatures plummet. While these general tips won’t cure your OSA, they may help to keep your sleep apnea symptoms in check:
- Get sufficient light in the morning. Because wintertime means less sunlight and less sunlight means your body will produce more melatonin, it’s important to get some sun. “We sleep better during the time that melatonin is secreted, and generally it gets secreted about an hour and a half to two hours before we go to sleep,” 4 says Dr. Nidhi Undevia. He recommends getting outdoors early in the morning after the sun comes up or sitting by a sunlit window during breakfast. He also suggests avoiding bright light at night in order to keep melatonin secretion on schedule.
- Stay cool, but not cold. People routinely crank up the thermostat when it’s cold out, but that’s not a way to a better night’s sleep. Lowering your skin temperature before going to bed can help you enjoy sounder and less interrupted sleep. Keep the thermostat somewhere between 62- and 68-degrees Fahrenheit to sleep soundly.5
- Keep up with an exercise routine. According to Dr. Michael Breus, “There’s no time of year when exercise and physical activity isn’t a good thing for your nightly rest. But exercising during the winter months can be particularly helpful to sleep.” 6 He goes on to say that regular exercise routines can help strengthen your circadian rhythms.
- Eat a light dinner and go easy on nighttime snacking. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should chow down on a thick steak and hearty potatoes every evening. Stuffing yourself silly before hitting the sack for the night isn’t great for a good night’s rest. Neither is snacking throughout the night. Dr. Breus states that “having to digest a large amount of food will keep your body from transitioning into sleep mode. Eating and digestion send messages to your body’s bio clock, altering circadian rhythms.” 2
Don’t let the winter season throw you off a healthy sleep schedule. Implement ResMed’s best winter sleep tips so you can enjoy consistent, well-deserved sleep all winter long.