Sleep Apnea and COVID-19

August 24, 2020
Avatar for Donald GriswoldDonald Griswold

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder which affects an estimated 22 million Americans. Persons with sleep apnea struggle to breathe regularly while sleeping, stopping and restarting repeatedly throughout the night. This can be caused by genetics or obesity and is generally the result of a restricted airway. This restriction can lead to many secondary problems, including low blood oxygen, obesity, depression, and general tiredness and lethargy throughout the day.

Sleep apnea has also been found to negatively contribute to conditions such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke. Now, studies are linking it to the worsening of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

While the link between COVID-19 and sleep apnea is not exactly known, a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that the link could be caused by the low blood oxygen levels caused by sleep apnea.

The researchers theory is that in addition to the low blood oxygen levels, patients with severe symptoms of coronavirus may also have some comorbid conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Persons with those conditions may suffer more extreme coronavirus symptoms.

Researchers also discovered that patients with pneumonia also had more severe reactions to COVID-19, and that persons with sleep apnea develop pneumonia easier and more frequently than those who do not have sleep apnea.

It is important to note that having sleep apnea does not increase your risk of catching COVID-19, however if you do have sleep apnea, here are some steps you can take to improve your overall health:

Get Evaluated

If you haven’t already and suspect you may have sleep apnea, request a sleep test from your dentist or doctor. Once you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea you can begin treatment.

Get Treated

There are several treatment options for sleep apnea, including CPAP therapy and sleep orthotics. Continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP blows air into the airway, propping open the obstruction while you sleep. While effective if used, many patients find the mask and tubing uncomfortable and thus rarely use them. Sleep orthotics position the jaw properly to allow for the airway to remain open and are much more comfortable to wear than CPAP.

Follow The CDC Guidelines for COVID-19 Prevention

Following the CDC guidelines to reduce your risk of contracting coronavirus is the best way to protect yourself. Practice social distancing, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and wear a face mask or covering while in public.