Is That Alcoholic Drink Affecting Sleep Apnea?

Lauren Lehmkuhl
Is That Alcoholic Drink Affecting Sleep Apnea?

For those who struggle with sleep apnea, consuming alcohol makes things worse. A glass of wine sounds like a wonderful way to relax after a long, hard day of work, but that feeling of relaxation comes with a steep price. While alcohol is a sedative and may help you fall asleep faster and deeper initially, it eventually leads to “rebound alertness” as it gets metabolized by the liver and starts to wash out of your system.

So maybe that glass of wine tastes delicious, but is it really worth it?

Missing out on REM sleep leads to poor sleep quality and feelings of sluggishness throughout the day. Research shows that even low amounts of alcohol (2 drinks for men and 1 for women) can disrupt deep sleep.

Alcohol causes disruption during your sleep and makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. By abstaining from alcohol, you are setting yourself up for a successful night of peaceful sleep. Then you can be the best version of yourself the following day!

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that can be very serious. Sleep apnea is when, throughout the night, your breathing repeatedly stops and starts up again. Sometimes people with sleep apnea are loud snorers who wake up feeling exhausted. They're usually not quite sure why they aren’t feeling rested.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two main types of sleep apnea, with a third being the combination of the previous two:

  • Obstructive: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax. When they relax, the airways close, and you’re cut off from oxygen. Your body sends a signal to wake up so that you can breathe again.
  • Central: Central sleep apnea is when the brain stops sending signals to the muscles that help you breathe. Your body makes no effort to breathe, causing you to eventually jolt awake to correct yourself.
  • Complex: Complex sleep apnea is when both your brain stops sending signals and your throat muscles relax.

Anyone can suffer from sleep apnea, so it’s important that you consult with your doctors if you suspect that you might be struggling with it. Sleep apnea can potentially be fatal if you don’t take care of it.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

When it comes to sleep apnea, the symptoms for both obstructive and central can blur together, making it more difficult to diagnose the right one, which is why consulting with your doctor is recommended. Some examples of symptoms are:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping for air
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Exhaustion during the daytime

The Benefits of Sleep

When you aren’t getting enough deep sleep, many health issues can arise, and sleep apnea makes it harder for you to be well-rested.

Your body uses sleep to rejuvenate and energize so that it can function properly the next day. When you don’t get enough sleep, you might end up feeling sluggish, confused, or even sick. Sleep is essential in the development of many people’s brains, but it doesn’t just impact young children and carries on as being impactful throughout your life.

When you get proper sleep and wake up feeling well-rested, you improve your learning abilities, memory, emotional regulation, and cardiovascular and metabolic functioning.

When you don’t get enough sleep, many issues can arise. Nearly all systems in your body are impacted by sleep, so when you aren’t getting enough, there can be both a physical and mental impact on you. You might experience abnormal hormone levels because sleep helps to regulate and produce hormones. You also might experience a worsening of your depression and anxiety if you aren’t getting proper sleep.

That glass of wine might seem like a good idea to help you fall asleep, but does it actually benefitial? Or your sleep apnea?

Alcohol’s Effect on Sleep Apnea

Even if you aren’t diagnosed with sleep apnea, alcohol consumption can cause episodes where you are affected by it. Those who have sleep apnea might find that drinking alcohol worsens their symptoms and can become more hazardous.

Alcohol can increase the time between when you stop breathing and when you jolt out of it. It can slow your reaction times and can increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the body.

Sleep Cycle Disruption

When you drink alcohol, it affects melatonin production in your body, which is the primary sleep-regulating hormone. When you drink, even moderately, shortly before you head to bed, you can reduce your melatonin by up to 20 percent, making it much more difficult for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

This will make the quality of your sleep suffer, making the following days more difficult.

When you have sleep apnea, you are prone to waking up in the middle of the night to correct your breathing. This disrupts your body’s REM cycle, which is most important for restorative sleep. REM helps improve your mood and focus throughout the following day, but alcohol can limit your ability to reach REM sleep properly, especially if it is causing your sleep apnea to act up!

Limits Ability To Breathe

Alcohol is a depressant that helps your muscles to relax. When it comes to the throat, your airways might relax too much and end up collapsing, making breathing impossible.

When you choose to drink, you increase your risk of experiencing sleep apnea, which can be dangerous and just plain scary! Waking up gasping for breath is not something that people find comfort in. Not having the ability to control your muscles can be anxiety-inducing, making falling asleep even harder to do.

Alcohol slows your brain's response to breathing down, so you often go longer without taking a breath. This is because your response time is also slowed down. On a normal night, without alcohol, you might find that you are startling yourself more when you can’t breathe, but if you’ve consumed alcohol, it might take longer for your brain to process that it needs to breathe.

Improving Your Sleep Apnea

If you suspect that you are struggling with sleep apnea, there are a few ways to find help. Many different factors impact sleep apnea, and it’s not just alcohol, but that’s one place to start!

Reduce or Eliminate Alcohol Consumption

An easy way to improve your sleep apnea is to avoid alcohol before bed or altogether. Even a few hours before bed, it’s not advised to consume alcohol if you struggle with sleep apnea.

Alcohol will slow your reaction rates down and increase the number of times you stop breathing throughout the night. You won’t react as fast to your sleep apnea if you have had a few drinks. The fact that alcohol relaxes muscles should warn you that drinking with sleep apnea could be extremely dangerous.

If you don’t want to eliminate your alcohol consumption, it’s advised that you stop drinking up to three hours before you head to bed. That will allow your body to metabolize the alcohol and recuperate before you fall asleep. If you have sleep apnea, eliminating your alcohol consumption can make a difference in your ability to sleep and feel well-rested.

Sleep on Your Side or With Your Head Propped

The worst position to sleep in when you have sleep apnea is on your back. This causes your mouth and tongue to drop towards the back of your throat, narrowing the airway. When you sleep on your side, it will help keep the airway open, and if you have your head propped up, you can minimize the risk of the airways closing.

Use a Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) Machine

Along with lifestyle changes and quitting alcohol, one way to seek out treatment for your sleep apnea is to use a CPAP machine. This machine secures your face and allows for a continuous airflow to be pushed through your nostrils so you can peacefully breathe. The air pressure from the machine works to keep the airways open throughout the night.

It can be an adjustment to sleep with this device attached to your face, but it works, and it will help you sleep throughout the night. In addition to avoiding alcohol, the CPAP machine allows you to begin to feel well-rested each day, improving your mental and physical health!

Getting to the Bottom with Vessel

If you struggle with your sleep, whether due to sleep apnea or not, you can benefit your overall health by using Vessel Health. With our Vessel Health Wellness Test Card, you can learn about different nutrients, energy, and stress levels in your body, all from the comfort of your own home. 

If you want to learn more about how you could improve your sleep, our product can help you do this! By simply peeing on the device we send to you, you can access different pieces of information about your own body. We also provide suggestions on how to improve your health, whether it be with more exercise, consuming more fruits and veggies, or putting down that glass of vino.

Our goal is to help you learn about your own needs and feel better as a result!