By Eugena Brooks
As we are all sheltering in place; I will take the time to point out how these three situations alcohol, stress and COVID-19 are of particular concern for people with sleep apnea. Conventional wisdom holds that stress and sleep apnea may be connected in terms of basic health.
How well we sleep is often connected to how well we’re keeping up our health in general – exercising regularly, following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol, among other factors. Sleep apnea sufferers must be careful with alcohol use as it plays a dangerous role. Not only does it cause fragmented unrestored sleep, drinking alcohol can affect the nighttime breathing of patients with sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea. Alcohol decreases your drive to breathe, slowing your breathing and making your breaths shallow. In addition, it may relax the muscles of your throat, which may make it more likely for your upper airway to collapse.
Stress brings with it another set of issues. It’s common knowledge that stress and anxiety will cause excessive thoughts at night; but it also can cause headaches, muscle pain and if left unchecked insomnia. Under such circumstances it’s understandable how bad it is to be so stressed you can’t fall asleep. It’s even worse when you finally fall asleep that your apnea is constantly interrupting you getting rest. Stress often impacts on sleep quality and duration. Stress and a lack of sleep can both have a severe impact on physical and mental health. Experts recommend that people aim for 7–9 hours of sleep a night, depending on their age and other factors. April is awareness month for both alcohol and stress. However, this year we have a new twist that we must also consider Novel Coronavirus Covid-19.
There is no vaccine for COVID-19. The medical and scientific community is basically learning about it as they go. What we do know is the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. That it is spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. The best way to prevent getting it is to avoid being exposed. So how do we do that?
Shelter in place. Which means stay home. If you must go out distance yourself. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Wear a face mask in close contact situations. Wash your hands often with warm soapy water or handle objects with disposable gloves. Wipe down surfaces when out and when you bring things in your home. Use disinfectant wipes to clean counter tops, boxes, containers, bus seats, door handles anything shared by others or objects that you bring from outside into your space. What do you do if you think you have it? Contact your doctor and self-isolate. Cover your coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve. Disinfect all surfaces you touch. It is trying times for us all this year and the end is not yet in sight.
In closing, I can only hope that following these prescribed steps will lead to a safer passage and hopefully a not too distant end to this awful situation. Good sleep and better health to you all.
Center for Disease Control On Sleep and Sleep disorders: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html
National Institute of Health On Alcohol and Sleep: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC491372/
Center for Disease Control Coronavirus Disease 2019 (covid-19): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html