Chronic obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious disorder, more common as people age that increases the risk for hypertension, cardiac disease, and death. Now a small study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, has found that it may also increase the chances for a lower handicap—in your golf game that is.
In the study, researchers studied 12 golfers with an average age of 55, with moderate to severe sleep apnea and compared them with 12 healthy controlled subjects. The golfers were asked to complete questionnaires on their general health and golf performance. Additionally, from an honesty perspective, they were required to maintain a handicap with the Golf Handicap and Information Network, a service that is run by the US Golf Association.
Golfers that struggled with sleep apnea were treated, on average, for six months with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a sleep apnea treatment used by the patient while they sleep that helps to support an open airway by pushing air into the nose and/or mouth.
After 20 rounds of golf and averaging scores and handicaps, after treatment was done there was as 31% improvement! Because golf is such a precise game, treatment for sleep apnea can only improve your cognitive skills such as attentiveness, alertness, focus, memory, and vision.
Persuading patients to adhere to sleep apnea treatment is definitely tricky. They are bulky, uncomfortable, and difficult to clean and sanitize. Researchers suggest that treatment of sleep apnea might improve golf performance which may encourage adherence to following treatment. Perhaps this is an encouraging way to get everyone that suffers and struggles with sleep apnea treatment to jump on board—encouraging their performance in what they love to do whether golf, swimming, racing, and more!
Regardless of whether treating sleep apnea will increase your performance from an athletic perspective, it is important to treat sleep apnea in any case. There are more important things than increasing athletic performance—your health.