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Sleep Apnea and Alcohol Use

woman struggles with sleep apnea and alcohol use

Sleep apnea is a serious condition in which a person stops breathing several times during the night.  Sleep apnea might cause an individual to wake up gasping for air, but usually, the nighttime symptoms are observed by someone sleeping next to them.  Sleep apnea can cause loud snoring, headaches, insomnia, and a constant feeling of fatigue due to a lack of quality sleep. Sleep apnea may occur as a result of overly relaxed muscles in the throat, or a lapse in communication between the brain and the muscles that control breathing.  There are several risk factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea and worsen symptoms if apnea is already a problem. Alcohol use disorder is one factor that has been shown in studies to increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea. Many people with sleep apnea don’t receive a proper diagnosis, and therefore are unaware of the ways in which they may be worsening their condition.  Drinking alcohol increases the chances of developing sleep apnea, but also makes symptoms more severe. Alcohol decreases the body’s urgency to breathe, which is why intoxicated people take very shallow breaths during sleep.  Alcohol also relaxes muscles, which makes airway obstruction more likely for those with sleep apnea. More severe symptoms of sleep apnea mean less oxygen in the body during sleep. This can lead to a condition called hypercapnia, which in the most extreme cases, can be fatal.   

Abstinence Is Best

People suffering from sleep apnea should avoid alcohol.  For those who are unsure if their symptoms indicate sleep apnea, a sleep study may be required to properly assess breathing patterns during sleep.  Sleep and alcohol often have a complex relationship. Many people who have a hard time falling asleep use alcohol to induce drowsiness. This habit can lead to poor quality sleep and addiction, as well as more severe sleep apnea in those at risk of this condition.  Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse is a great first step in improving sleep and overall health.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  We use an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor, you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 844-413-2690.