How to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea When You Lead an Active Life

Older couple jogging outdoors

If you’re someone who’s used to traveling for work, vacationing, and leading an active lifestyle, an obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis can feel like a huge obstacle. You need to start using a new device and training healthy sleep habits that might seem incompatible with your usual routine.

Just like starting a new fitness regime, your mind and body need around 21 days to adapt to your sleep apnea treatment. If you’re used to leading an active life, be it on the road or at the gym, you’ve developed important habits before. That means you have all the experience you need to treat your obstructive sleep apnea and avoid complications. All you need now are a few pointers to set yourself up for success.

These tips will help you work through the acclimation period so you can treat your obstructive sleep apnea while maintaining your active lifestyle.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

No matter whether you’re already leading a healthy life or looking to improve, the following three areas are essential for supporting your sleep apnea treatment.

Continue with Exercise

If you’re struggling with sleep apnea, trying to adjust to your new treatment, and getting less rest, the last thing you might want to do is keep up your usual exercise regime. The good news is that exercise can improve sleep apnea, so don’t hang up your tennis shoes just yet.

Studies have shown that patients with obstructive sleep apnea who exercise regularly reduce their daytime sleepiness and the severity of their sleep disorder. Cardiovascular exercise helps increase sleep efficiency and peak oxygen consumption, leading to a better night’s sleep. The protective effects on the vascular system may also counter increased oxidative stress and inflammation, which are seen in many obstructive sleep apnea patients.

If you don’t already have a fitness routine, now is the perfect time to start one. As well as improving your sleep quality, exercise can allow you to lose weight. This can help with milder cases of obstructive sleep apnea caused by excess fat tissue around the throat area.

Eat a Balanced Diet

A healthy diet is another way to keep your body in optimal shape and lose any excess weight that may be contributing to your sleep apnea. If this is something you’re working on, try a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, and moderate amounts of non-fish meats and dairy products. 

The Mediterranean diet is recommended by the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. These diseases often coexist with sleep apnea as comorbidities, which can take an extra toll on your health. Many of the foods in the Mediterranean diet are rich in melatonin, omega-3, and tryptophan, which can also encourage sleep

There are some types of food that you should try to avoid as you treat your obstructive sleep apnea, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products. These foods can lead to inflammation, excess mucus production, and weight gain, which all exacerbate sleep apnea. Heavy meals are also more difficult to digest and may affect sleep quality.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

A new sleep apnea treatment is already a big adjustment, so it’s important to create the best possible conditions for your night’s sleep. 

Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day to build a consistent sleep schedule. This will help train your body to fall asleep at a certain time, even if you’re starting an unfamiliar treatment. Don’t use any blue-light devices at least an hour before sleeping, as they can suppress melatonin production and affect your circadian rhythm. Consuming alcohol before bedtime and drinking coffee later in the day can also reduce your sleep quality.

Before you go to bed, make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool in temperature. You can wear an eye mask and ear plugs, if needed, to prevent any disturbances. Noises, lights, and waking up to remove layers during the night can disturb your sleep and cause confusion when you realize you’re wearing a new sleep apnea device.

Somnera portable sleep apnea machine

Prepare for Travel

No matter whether you usually travel for business or pleasure, you need to keep treating your obstructive sleep apnea to make the most of your trip. Traveling can make it difficult to maintain your treatment, but by following these three key tips, you can set yourself up for success while you’re on the go.

Travel With Your Sleep Apnea Machine

Traveling with your sleep apnea machine is critical to maintaining your treatment and enjoying your time on the road. The key is to find a portable sleep apnea machine that can travel with you. 

Many CPAP machines are large and bulky, and so are the hoses and headgear that come with them. If you’re flying to your destination, these devices make for cumbersome carry-on luggage. On the other hand, you don’t want to check your machine and risk it getting lost or damaged. Even if you’re driving to your destination, packing sleep apnea equipment can be a hassle.

Consider purchasing a mini, travel-friendly device in addition to your usual device. Portable sleep apnea machines are usually smaller because they don’t have a humidifier, but they still have the bulky hose and headgear. 

The Somnera® System uses a compact AirBox generator, adjustable headgear, and the lightest hose on the market, which makes it easy to take on your travels. By delivering positive airway pressure (PAP) without the continuous high airflow of CPAP, this revolutionary device provides the same level of effectiveness, but without the need for a heavy humidifier. 

No more humidifier means you don’t have to hunt for distilled water after a long flight. You can also use the Somnera System on a daily basis, not just on your travels, for a more convenient way of treating your obstructive sleep apnea. You’ll barely notice the device on your nightstand!

Learn more about the Somnera System here.

Because new habits take time to form, every purchase of the Somnera System comes with individualized sleep coaching at no additional cost. This personal touch can help keep you on track, so you can treat your obstructive sleep apnea and reclaim your night.

Find out more about our sleep coaching program here.

Pack a Supportive Pillow

If you’re going on a relaxing vacation or staying at a fancy hotel during a business trip, you’re probably expecting to sink into a big, soft pillow at night. While this sounds comfortable, it may not be the best option for your sleep apnea. 

A firmer pillow provides more support under your neck and can ensure a better sleeping posture. Not only can a firmer pillow help keep your airway open, but it’s also less likely to interfere with the mask from your sleep apnea device. If you’re driving to your destination or checking a large bag, consider bringing your own pillow from home, especially if it’s designed for use with a sleep apnea device.

Keep Up the Healthy Sleep Habits

Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time as you usually would. This may seem like less fun on a vacation and more difficult on a business trip in a different time zone, but the more you keep to your routine, the better you will sleep. You’ll also get the most out of your sleep apnea treatment.

Similarly, try to maintain a balanced diet and regular exercise regime during your travels. Exercising can actually help you adjust to another time zone more quickly by getting you back to a normal circadian rhythm. Get outside for a walk or a jog, or use the pool and gym at the hotel where you’re staying. 

If you’re still struggling to fall asleep, you can use melatonin supplements several hours before you want to sleep. Try to avoid caffeine after lunch and alcoholic beverages before sleep. If you can cut back on them both all together, that’s even better.