Tips for Sleep Apnea Patients

Obstructive sleep apnea can be very serious. However, following an effective treatment plan can often improve your quality of life quite a bit. Treatment can improve your sleep and relieve daytime tiredness. It also may make you less likely to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems linked to sleep apnea. Treatment may improve your overall health and happiness as well as your quality of sleep (and possibly your family's quality of sleep). 1

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mayo Clinic recommends you do the following:

Ongoing Health Care Needs

  • Follow up with your doctor regularly to make sure your treatment is working. Tell him or her if the treatment is causing side effects that you can't handle.
  • Try not to gain weight. Weight gain can worsen sleep apnea and require adjustments to a sleep apnea treatment. In contrast, weight loss may relieve your sleep apnea.
  • Until your sleep apnea is properly treated, know the dangers of driving or operating heavy machinery while sleepy.
  • If you're having any type of surgery that requires medicine to put you to sleep, let your surgeon and doctors know you have sleep apnea. They might have to take extra steps to make sure your airway stays open during the surgery.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers since these substances relax the muscles in your throat.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are people who've never smoked. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. This risk likely drops after you quit smoking. For more information or to get help with quitting, visit

How Can Family Members Help?

Often, people with sleep apnea don't know they have it. They're not aware that their breathing stops and starts many times while they're sleeping. Family members or bed partners usually are the first to notice signs of sleep apnea.

Family members can do many things to help a loved one who has sleep apnea:

  • Let the person know if he or she snores loudly during sleep or has breathing stops and starts. Encourage the person to get medical help.
  • Help the person follow the doctor's treatment plan, including CPAP
  • Provide emotional support.

1 Living with Sleep Apnea and