Sleep Apnea Potentially Linked To
More Serious COVID-19 Symptoms
Quality sleep can be life-changing, and in some cases — life-saving.
Better sleep is linked to a stronger immune system, which means a greater ability to fight off viruses. With that in mind, a common sleep disorder could put those infected with COVID-19 at a “higher risk for critical illness,” a new study indicates.
“Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a very common sleep disorder, which actually impacts far more people than we once thought,” says Dr. Kevin Mangelson, DMD, who runs The Center for Sleep Apnea & TMJ in Salt Lake County. “Patients with obstructive sleep apnea briefly stop breathing – or have reduced airflow – often multiple times each night while they are asleep.”
The study, from researchers in Finland, found that OSA patients who also became infected with COVID-19 had a “five-fold higher risk of hospitalization” than those with COVID who do not suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
“Not everyone with sleep apnea snores, but if you, your bed partner, or a loved one snores and they have been observed to have apneas (blocked breathing) while sleeping, or they feel that they rarely wake up feeling refreshed, a simple evaluation may be appropriate,” says Dr. Mangelson.
The risks of OSA are not limited to a higher chance for a more severe COVID-19 impact. OSA is also associated with issues like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Even if you don’t suffer from OSA, your sleep could be getting interrupted. If fact, chances are good you may be experiencing “coronasomnia.” The stress from the pandemic, changes in activities, an increase in teeth clenching and grinding during the day and while you sleep, even changes in your eating and drinking habits – all of these things can negatively impact sleep quality.
“Lack of sleep can have many repercussions,” says Dr. Mangelson. “Anything from depression to high blood pressure, to an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke — all of these can result from consistent lack of sleep. And, knowing that missing out on good sleep can make us more vulnerable to COVID-19 can lead to more worries and more insomnia – it’s a vicious cycle!”
Luckily, there are simple things you can do to help improve the quality of your sleep:
- If you snore or wake feeling unrested, talk to your doctor about a possible sleep evaluation.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night, give yourself enough time for sleep, and whenever possible get outside to have exposure to sunlight for at least 15-30 minutes a day.
- Make sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature.
For those who suffer from sleep apnea – or think that they may – Dr. Mangelson and the doctors at The Center for Sleep Apnea & TMJ of Utah are available for in-office or telemedicine evaluations to get you started on your journey toward treatment.
Treating sleep apnea is a critical step for maintaining overall health, and it’s surprising to many to learn that treatment does not have to be limited to CPAP machines. The staff and doctors at The Center for Sleep Apnea & TMJ are here to answer all questions about the simple and effective alternatives to a CPAP — alternatives that are often covered by medical insurance!