If you think your snoring gets worse in the winter, you might very well be right. Do you feel more tired, experience more headaches, and have a lower sex drive?

If you answered yes to any of those symptoms, it’s likely that you develop sleep apnea in the winter, and that your breathing is worse. So what is it about winter and early spring that makes sleep apnea worse?

What can you do about it?

young woman waking up with a morning headache due to sleep apnea

Studies Prove that Sleep Apnea is Worse in Winter

Sleep apnea is worse in winter and early spring. At least, that’s the result of two recent studies looking at the seasonal effect of sleep apnea. These two studies used very different approaches to determine the seasonal effects of sleep apnea.

The more recent study, just published online in Sleep Breathing, took an Internet age approach. It used search traffic as a stand-in for people’s interest, something that Google and marketers do very regularly in trying to determine developing trends. Researchers used data from both the US and Australia to eliminate calendar effects and analyzed search traffic for a variety of terms related to snoring and sleep apnea. They found that many terms had some degree of variation, perhaps as little as 5% and as much as 50%, and that in both the US and Australia these searches peaked in the late winter and early spring.

A 2012 study published in the journal Chest, also showed a strong variation in sleep apnea during the winter. This study looked at the records of more than 7500 patients who had visited a sleep clinic over the past 10 years. Their records showed that the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was much higher for patients that came in for sleep studies during the winter months. The AHI is a measure of how disrupted your breathing is and how much it affects oxygen levels in your body. The median value during the winter was 17.8, compared to only 15.0 during the summer. In addition, more patients had severe sleep apnea in the winter (34% vs. 28%).

What Makes Sleep Apnea Worse in Winter?

Researchers in the earlier study note that sleep apnea may seem to be worse during the winter because people have the time or incentive (such as a flex account) to visit the doctor more in the winter.

However, sleep apnea may actually be worsened by many factors in the winter, including:

  • Weather conditions like high pressure
  • Increased carbon monoxide levels
  • More frequent colds
  • Allergens spread by forced-air heating
  • Dry air leading to irritation of the airway

People may also experience more incidental effects that make them aware of their sleep apnea. For example, short days in which people leave and arrive home in the dark may make people more prone to daytime sleepiness, and then they begin investigating potential causes.

Additionally, people tend to work more in the winter in order to save their vacation time for summer. This means there is a lot of built-up stress! Winter can also be stressful due to all the holidays, shopping, and gatherings that come with them. All of this stress can have a huge impact on the quality of sleep and cause insomnia. Combine the stress of winter with untreated sleep apnea and you’ve got a terrible season for sleep.

Whether sleep apnea gets worse in the winter, it remains a year-round condition that requires year-round treatment.

Tips To Handle Sleep Apnea During Winter and Early Spring

Managing your sleep apnea year-round is incredibly important. You just need some extra help during the winter and spring months. Thankfully, with our tips, we can help you get through winter and spring with no problems.

Use a Humidifier

One of the easiest things you can do to improve your sleep apnea during the winter and spring is to use a humidifier in your bedroom. Try turning on the humidifier in your bedroom a few hours before you go to bed so that it’s nice and ready for you. Adding humidity to the dry air in your home can help moisten your sinuses, nostrils, and throat to prevent irritation that causes congestion and snoring.

woman laying in her back, snoring

Take Allergy Medication

If you’re prone to spring allergies, taking allergy medication regularly can help keep your sinuses clear and sleep better during early spring.

Keep Exercising

We know it’s hard to stay motivated when it’s cold and dark outside, but exercising regularly helps your sleep apnea, overall health, and quality of sleep. Try an at-home workout if you can’t go outside or to the gym regularly.

Eat Healthily

Once again, the weather can make it difficult to stick to a healthy and nutritious diet. Make sure to stick to eating nutritious foods in the winter and early spring (and the rest of the year).

Use Your Oral Appliance or CPAP Every Night

There’s no reason you shouldn’t use your sleep apnea treatment night after night. Using your treatment regularly is the only way to effectively treat your condition. If you’re unhappy with your current treatment, you might need a new one. Please contact us to learn more about our sleep apnea treatments.

Get Sleep Apnea Treatment in Omaha

At Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, we can help you avoid sleep apnea that gets worse in the winter and early spring with our sleep apnea treatment options. Whether you’re undiagnosed and suspect sleep apnea or already have a diagnosis, we can help. Please call us at (402) 493-4175 to book a new patient appointment today.