Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Sleep Apnea

Lifestyle changes may help to ease some symptoms. Choices are:

Lose Weight

Obesity is a major risk factor for sleep apnea. A person can lower the number of apnea episodes they have each night by maintaining a healthy weight.

Stop Using Alcohol and Sedative Medicines

Alcohol and sedative medicines are nervous system depressants. They cause problems with how the brain works. They also increase the frequency and number of sleep apnea episodes that occur each night. A person should talk to their doctor before making any medicine changes.

Stop Smoking

Nicotine can worsen sleep apnea. There are smoking cessation programs and products that can help people quit.

Exercise

Exercise can help improve sleep apnea even without weight loss. Tai chi is a good option. A person should talk to their doctor before starting a program.

Sleep on Your Side

Apnea is often worse when a person sleeps on their back or stomach. Side sleeping may help keep the airway open. There are pillows and devices that can help.

References

Central sleep apnea. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/central-sleep-apnea. Accessed September 17, 2020.

Greenstone M, Hack M. Obstructive sleep apnoea. BMJ. 2014 Jun 17;348:g3745.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/obstructive-sleep-apnea-osa-in-adults. Accessed September 16, 2020.

Sleep apnea. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea. Accessed September 16, 2020.

Sleep apnea information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Sleep-Apnea-Information-Page. Accessed September 16, 2020.

Snoring, sleeping disorders, and sleep apnea. ENThealth—American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/snoring-and-sleep-apnea. Accessed September 17, 2020.

What is sleep apnea? American Sleep Apnea Association website. Available at: https://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea. Accessed September 16, 2020.