If You Have Sleep Apnea, This Heatwave May Be Making It Worse

Sleep apnea sufferers may have a more difficult time breathing during extreme heat, making CPAP compliance all the more critical.

It’s been a record hot summer in the U.S.—with temperatures reaching 95 degrees or above from coast to coast. Extreme heat has also impacted Europe, particularly in France and Spain, where temperatures have spiked at 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit (40-46 degrees Celsius). And globally, soaring high temperatures have affected many others, especially those living in cramped quarters, with or without air conditioning.

While everyone can experience more challenges with breathing and sleeping during a heatwave, this is especially true for those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or a lung condition.  

As Public Health England’s chief environmental public health scientist, Owen Landeg, recently warned, “The extreme heat means that our bodies, especially our hearts and lungs, have to work harder to maintain a normal temperature.”

Landeg said older people, those with underlying health conditions, and young children in particular should be vigilant about keeping themselves well-hydrated and out of the heat.

Why heat may aggravate sleep apnea

Extreme heat and humidity has bearing on both your quality of life and your ability to breathe. According to the British Lung Foundation, “Summer heatwaves and hot weather can affect anyone. But if you have a long-term lung condition like asthma, bronchiectasis or COPD, you’re more at risk of the heat affecting you. And hot weather can cause your symptoms to flare up, too.”

As sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops, it’s important that sleep apnea patients who use CPAP therapy have optimal sleeping conditions so they can breathe easy at night and make the most out of their therapy.

Over the years, several studies of patients with sleep apnea have made a correlation between an increased amount of wakefulness during a night in warm temperatures and a smaller amount of rapid eye movement and slow-wave sleep.

For optimal sleep, the ideal bedroom temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. The core temperature of our bodies naturally decreases as we fall asleep, so maintaining temperatures in this range can help ease us into sleep. Of course, it is more difficult to maintain indoor temperatures in this range when it’s so hot outside. And those without air conditioning face an enormous struggle to regulate their temperature at night.

An opportunity for sleep apnea diagnosis

If you or a family member have trouble breathing at night, are especially agitated in the extreme heat, can’t sleep or are experiencing loud snoring that starts and stops, first visit a doctor to ensure that there isn’t a health emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Second, consider that the extreme summertime heat and these symptoms may warrant a visit to a sleep study center. There, a sleep specialist and physician will be able to determine if there is a sleep apnea problem requiring treatment.

Diagnosed sleep apnea patients should be diligent about using your CPAP nightly

For those who have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed CPAP therapy, it is important to keep your bedroom cool and your CPAP machine on and running all night during the extreme heat to ensure continuous breathing.

Some CPAP users complain that during the summer, the CPAP mask traps additional heat around their face and neck at night, causing them to sweat. If this is the case, it may be advisable to try a mask that covers less of the face.

And if you’re traveling this summer, be sure to take your CPAP with you so that you get the best rest possible to enjoy your vacation. 

Tips for dealing with extreme summer heat

The British Lung Foundation published these recommendations to help everyone (especially patients with lung conditions) stay cool and comfortable during the extreme weather conditions:

  • Watch the weather forecast on the daily news.
  • Observe pollen levels, and pollen forecasts, that may initiate allergies prompted by heat.
  • Stay out of direct sunlight.
  • Pack a bag of essentials (mini fan, misting spray, sun screen, bottled water, etc.).
  • Exercise sensibly to avoid overheating.
  • Drink plenty of cold water.
  • Keep the shades down and your house cool.
  • Take plenty of cold baths or showers.
  • Use a fan.
  • Maintain a healthy eating routine (don’t skip meals).
  • Pay attention to your surroundings: Take care of yourself and others around you.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed CPAP treatment, a SoClean Automated PAP Cleaner & Sanitizer Device might be a welcome way to make your daily routine simpler, and better. If you have any questions, please reach us at info@soclean.com or (800) 341-7014.