While there are treatment options, such as CPAP, to help manage your sleep apnoea, you can also manage your sleep apnoea symptoms by developing a healthier lifestyle.
We explore four lifestyle changes you can make that may help ease your sleep apnoea symptoms.
1. Reduce your weight
If you are obese, reducing your weight can help manage the symptoms of sleep apnoea as it has been extensively linked to the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnoea1.
Research has found that obesity contributes to the narrowing of the airway and a 10 per cent weight gain can be equal to a six-fold rise in sleep apnoea risk.
Even if you’re not clinically overweight or obese, reducing your weight can also help ease other symptoms that occur with sleep apnoea.
These include preventing type two diabetes, lowering your blood pressure, reducing the severity of your obstructive sleep apnoea symptoms and overall enhancing your quality of life2.
It’s important to note that in the research that’s mentioned above, people participating in the studies lost weight through a reduced-calorie diet and exercise or increased physical activity.
However, some people were recommended to undergo pharmacological therapy as well as bariatric surgery as they needed further assistance with weight loss.
Some pharmacological treatments that can better target the symptoms of sleep apnoea include nasal decongestants, medication that can help treat arrhythmias and more6.
Bariatric surgery can make a significant difference to your symptoms of sleep apnoea7, but it is highly recommended that you speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise regime.
2. Quitting alcohol and smoking
Quitting alcohol or reducing the amount you consume can have a large impact on your obstructive sleep apnoea symptoms.
As alcohol makes the throat muscles relax more during sleep, you may notice that your symptoms are worse during this time.
If you decide to stop drinking alcohol, there’s less opportunity for your throat muscles to relax so much and you can find that you’re getting higher quality sleep3.
Reducing the amount you smoke can also have a significant impact on your sleep apnoea symptoms.
Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnoea than someone who has never smoked, as smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway4.
If you want to reduce the amount you smoke, but aren’t sure where to start, please visit our friendly Pharmacists in store for more information or visit your doctor.
3. Eating a nutritional diet
A new study has suggested that eating a nutritionally balanced diet, which includes eating healthy whole foods and avoiding processed meats, salty snacks and ultra-processed foods can help significantly reduce your obstructive sleep apnoea symptoms.
The study focuses on 89 overweight and obese men who had moderate and severe sleep apnoea and were split into two groups.
One group was instructed to exercise more, eat a healthier diet, reduce smoking and their alcohol consumption whereas the second group didn’t receive the lifestyle recommendations.
In just eight weeks, it was shown that the healthier group had a 51% reduction in the number of sleep apnoea episodes they experienced during each hour of sleep.
45% of the first group no longer needed to use their CPAP machines either as they were instructed to use them nightly to help ease symptoms.
The researchers also found that the healthier group had significant reductions in blood pressure, which lowered their risk of dying from heart disease by more than 30%.
If you want to ease your sleep apnoea symptoms and are unsure where to start, it’s recommended that you start small.
For example, if you drink heavily, reducing your consumption of alcohol by a few drinks can help ease your symptoms.
4. Exercising regularly
Some studies have shown that people who are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea can find relief for their symptoms if they start and maintain an exercise routine.
Although any exercise is good, research has shown that predominantly aerobic exercise programs have shown a reduction in the severity of sleep apnoea as well as decreasing daytime sleepiness5.
Those who stuck to their exercise routine found that their symptoms of sleep apnoea were reduced due to less fluid build up in their necks as well as more muscle tone in their bodies.
Implementing these lifestyle changes can help ease your sleep apnoea symptoms. For more information about getting high quality sleep and the impacts of sleep apnoea, please explore our Sleep Health Content Hub today.
1Interactions between obesity and obstructive sleep apnea: implications for treatment. Romero-Corral A, Caples SM, Lopez-Jimenez F, Somers VK. Chest. 2010;137:711–719.
2Weight loss and the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes using lifestyle therapy, pharmacotherapy, and bariatric surgery: mechanisms of action. Grams J, Garvey WT. Curr Obes Rep. 2015;4:287–302.
3Better Health Victoria, Sleep Apnoea, accessed 28 March 2023
4Where There Is Smoke…There Is Sleep Apnea: Exploring the Relationship Between Smoking and Sleep Apnea, accessed 28 March 2023.
5The role of physical exercise in obstructive sleep apnea. Andrade FM, Pedrosa RP. J Bras Pneumol. 2016;42:457–464.
6United States National Library of Medicine, Overview of the Role of Pharmacological Management of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, accessed 18 April 2023
7United States National Library of Medicine, Impact of bariatric surgery on obstructive sleep apnoea–hypopnea syndrome in morbidly obese patients, accessed 18 April 2023