How To Protect Yourself From Winter's Impact on Sleep Apnea

If You Have Sleep Apnea, Here’s What You Can Do To Make Sure Winter Doesn’t Make Sleep Even Harder. 

Do cold, dry winter months affect the severity of sleep apnea?

Most definitely. In fact, a 10-year study of 7,500 people demonstrated a nearly 20% surge in nighttime breathing disruptions during winter compared to other times of the year.

That’s significant. Because a lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, meaning you may be more likely to get—and stay—sick.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and obesity.

Robert Miller, Apria Healthcare Vice President of Sleep Business, says, “There are many things you can do to protect yourself in the winter—and get the sleep you need to ensure that you have a healthy immune system.”

How Winter Makes Sleep Apnea Worse

Winter can create health havoc for everyone—but particularly for people with sleep apnea.

  • There’s less humidity in the air during winter. Breathing cold, dry air can dry out nasal passages, making breathing harder and sleeping more difficult.
  • Studies reveal that poor sleep increases your risk of catching a cold.  
  • Dry air can also leave your skin and lips chapped and chafed, which can be uncomfortable and even painful.
  • Headaches are more prevalent in winter.
  • Eating habits suffer in colder months, which can play a role in sleep apnea.
  • Winter days are shorter, meaning less sunlight. This can cause moodiness, depression, and fatigue.
  • Allergens spread by forced-air home heating may lead to increased infections.
  • Winter is packed with holidays, shopping, and parties, all of which can be stressful. And stress is a major trigger for illness.

How to Protect Yourself This Winter

Put out the fire

Fireplaces tend to dry out the air in your home, which in turn dries out your nasal passages, making breathing even more difficult.

Humidify your home

Put a humidifier in your bedroom and turn it on a few hours before you go to bed. More humidity in the air may help moisten your sinuses and nasal passages to help prevent congestion and reduce snoring.

See the light

Your body produces a hormone called melatonin that plays a critical role in your sleep cycle. The amount of melatonin your body makes increases when it’s dark and decreases when it’s light. Because there is less sunlight during the winter, that delicate balance can be disrupted. So it’s important to get sufficient sunlight in the morning to help ensure you produce enough melatonin when you go to bed.

Make exercise routine

Exercising regularly will help you get the quality and quantity of sleep you need as well as improve your overall well-being. Create an at-home workout, join a gym, or take long walks with friends at an indoor mall.

Cover your mouth

When you go outside, make sure your mouth is covered. Breathing in cold air dries out your airways and lungs.

Be a nose breather

Breathe in through your nose, which helps filter the air. Then breathe out through your mouth.

Eat wisely

When it’s cold, we sometimes crave heartier, heavier meals such as stews, which are fine. But don’t eat such meals before bedtime since they’ll probably keep you up at night! As always, try to stick to nutritious foods such as lean meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits.

Bundle up

Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Layer clothing to ensure warmth and remove layers if you get too hot.

Continue Using Your CPAP Machine

Probably the most effective way to protect yourself during winter is to use your CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine every night as prescribed by your doctor.

Your CPAP machine effectively treats your sleep apnea by helping you get the sleep you need. Feeling rested reduces your risk of getting sick and helps you recover more quickly if you do.

Plus, the pressurized air delivered by your CPAP device may clear mucus from your nasal passages and keep them open, decreasing congestion.

Heat and humidify

CPAP machines deliver pressurized air that can reduce moisture in your nasal passages and cause mouth, nose, and throat dryness.

The good news: CPAP heated humidifiers and tubing replace moisture in your nasal passages. They can also reduce the risk of nasal infections.

Apria’s Robert Miller adds, “Many CPAP machines have a humidifier built in. There are also external humidifiers that attach to CPAP machines.”

Keep It Clean

Regularly cleaning your CPAP machine prevents the buildup of bacteria, mold, dust, and germs, which can make you sick.

When you get into the habit, you’ll find cleaning your CPAP machine is easy. And you can use supplies you have in your home, such as warm, clean water; mild soap; clean, dry towels; and a sink or tub to hold the items you are cleaning.

You should clean your CPAP mask—including the cushion, headgear, and frame—every day. And once a week, clean CPAP filters, tubing, and the humidifier.

Even with regular cleaning, CPAP supplies do need to get replaced in order to work as effectively as possible in supporting your health. You can visit to view our convenient ordering options to keep your CPAP supplies fresh.

Spring Into Action Against Winter

Don’t let the cold winter months put a damper on your health. Apria’s Miller concludes, “By following the advice here, you can help ensure you get the sleep you need so you can feel your best in winter, spring, summer, and fall.”

1. Cassol CM, et al. Is sleep apnea a winter disease? Meteorologic and sleep laboratory evidence collected over 1 decade. Chest. 2012;142(6):1499-1507. 
2. Prather A, et al. Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep. 2015;38(9):1353-1359. 
3. Our best tips for helping you sleep well this winter. ResMed.
4. Reuters Staff. (2021, July 4). Sleep apnea gets worse in the winter: study.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Material in this newsletter is provided for general health education and informational purposes and to provide references to other resources only; it may not apply to you as an individual. While Apria Healthcare believes that the information provided through this communication is accurate and reliable, Apria Healthcare cannot and does not make any such guarantee. It is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice, evaluation, diagnosis, services or treatment (collectively, “medical treatment”). Please see your healthcare provider for medical treatment related to you and your specific health condition(s). Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. Reading this newsletter should not be construed to mean that you have a healthcare provider/patient relationship.

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About the AuthorApria

Apria is a leading provider of home healthcare equipment and related services across the USA, offering a comprehensive range of products and services for in-home care and delivery of respiratory therapy, obstructive sleep apnea treatment, and negative pressure wound therapy, along with additional equipment and services.