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Is Sleep Apnea Worse in Winter?

Is Sleep Apnea Worse in Winter?

Friday, December 17, 2021

The holidays are a special time of year when we get a chance to step back, reflect on what’s important in life, spend time with family, and enjoy charming decorations. People don’t mind the chill in the air as we are all dreaming about a white Christmas.

However, after the new year, many of us are already looking forward to spring. The short days and long dark nights make you miss the sunshine. The snow and ice make daily activities more difficult and unsafe.

The cold temperatures may make your joints hurt, and muscles ache. The dry air may make your throat sore and contribute to a dry mouth.

If you experience sleep apnea, you may wonder if it gets worse during the winter. In this article, we are discussing whether or not sleep apnea can be exacerbated by cold and winter weather conditions and if anything can be done to find relief.


What Is Sleep Apnea?

In a previous post, we defined sleep apnea as a condition characterized by pauses in breathing while sleeping. When people with sleep apnea sleep, they have many lengthy breath pauses. These pauses in breathing impair sleep quality and deplete the body’s oxygen supply, potentially resulting in serious health repercussions.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This describes what happens when breathing is interrupted during sleep by obstructions in the mouth and throat.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: This describes sleep apnea caused by issues with brain function that leads to shallower breathing.

One in ten Americans suffers from sleep apnea. Of these, 90% are affected by obstructive sleep apnea, which leads to a number of other issues, including:

  • Snoring
  • Fatigue
  • Stress and irritability
  • Dry mouth and sore throat
  • Lack of focus
  • Halitosis

Sleep apnea is bad enough throughout the year, but are its effects worse during winter?

Is Sleep Apnea Worse During Winter?

If you feel like your sleep apnea is exacerbated by winter conditions, you may indeed be correct. A study of 7,500 patients found that many people did experience an increase in the severity of their breathing conditions. According to Reuters:

“About 34 percent of patients who came in during cold weather had severe apnea, while 28 percent of patients during warm weather had severe apnea.”

While the study could not necessarily confirm that winter weather was the definitive cause for the uptick in severe sleep apnea during the cold months, it could be the lack of humidity or increased pressure that leads to breathing issues.

There are a few steps you can take that could potentially improve your breathing at night during winter, whether or not you have sleep apnea.

Steps for Potentially Improving Breathing at Night During Winter

Here are a few steps for improving your breathing at night:

  • Lower Your Alcohol Consumption at Night: Alcohol too close to bedtime can lead to poor breathing at night.
  • Drink Plenty of Water: Staying hydrated is key to helping your airflow and breathing at night.
  • Use a Dehumidifier: The dry winter air will negatively impact your breathing. Use a humidifier to help add moisture to the air.
  • Keep a Steady Bedtime: Create a steady bedtime routine and give yourself plenty of time to sleep.
  • Eat Well and Exercise: Eating nutritiously and exercising frequently can help your breathing at night.
  • Stop Smoking: Smoking will cause you to breathe poorly. You will likely breathe better at night if you can quit smoking.
  • Vacuum Frequently: Vacuum the dust and pet dander frequently to keep the air clean.
  • Correct Tongue Thrust: If you have tongue thrust, it is likely impeding your breathing, which can potentially lead to mouth-breathing and sleep apnea.

Breathe Easier by Correcting Tongue Thrust

Tongue thrust describes a condition where the tongue rests improperly in a person’s mouth. When someone has a tongue thrust, their tongue pushes against their front teeth perpetually, which can lead to a variety of other issues, including mouth-breathing, dental issues, and more.

Regardless of the season, whether it is hot or cold, correcting your tongue thrust can go a long way toward improving your breathing at night.

IJustWantTo® Correct My Tongue Thrust is a step-by-step program that leads you through tongue exercises that are explained in written words and videos to correct your tongue thrust in only seven weeks.

If you would like to start correcting tongue thrust, you can find our program online and start the process today.


Janet M. Bennett

Written by:

Janet Bennett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is a Speech Pathologist in private practice in Asheville, NC, since 1977. She specializes in treating tongue thrust, a swallowing disorder that can result in buckteeth, an open bite, a lisp, snoring, and other problems that have not yet been made known to most people.