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General Guidelines for Managing Sleep Apnea
Lose Weight

Obesity is a major risk factor for sleep apnea. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about a reasonable weight loss goal and a safe weight loss program. As little as 10% weight loss can greatly reduce the number of sleep apnea episodes that occur each night.

Stop Using Alcohol and Sedative Medications

Alcohol and sedative medications are nervous system depressants. They affect the brain, causing it to function more slowly and less effectively. Using alcohol and/or sedatives will increase the frequency and number of sleep apnea episodes that occur each night. When you stop taking these products, your sleep apnea may improve.

Stop Smoking

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Nicotine can worsen sleep apnea.

Exercise

There is evidence that exercise helps to improve sleep apnea even without weight loss. Talk to your doctor about which exercises are right for you.

Sleep on Your Side

Some people find that sleeping on one side, rather than sleeping on their backs or stomachs, greatly reduces sleep apnea. You can use a variety of pillows to comfortably prop yourself on your side.

References:

How is sleep apnea treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea/treatment. Updated July 10, 2012. Accessed December 6, 2016.

NINDS sleep apnea information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sleep_apnea/sleep_apnea.htm. Updated October 21, 2015. Accessed December 6, 2016.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115600/Obstructive-sleep-apnea-OSA. Updated October 5, 2016. Accessed December 6, 2016.

Sleep apnea. American Sleep Apnea Association website. Available at: http://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea.html. Accessed December 6, 2016.

Snoring and sleep apnea. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/snoring-and-sleep-apnea. Accessed December 6, 2016.



Last reviewed December 2016 by Marcie L. Sidman, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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