If you’re battling daytime fatigue because you’re struggling to fall asleep, a shot of whiskey before bed can help you doze off. Maybe you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner to unwind after a long day? Unfortunately, if you’re not getting the rest you need, alcohol may be the cause of your tossing and turning. Alcohol consumption has been found to induce sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, which can cause you to stop breathing. Here’s what you need to know before pouring your favorite adult beverage.
What is Sleep Apnea?
According to the Sleep Foundation, up to 30% of adults have obstructive sleep apnea, however, as many as 80% of cases aren’t diagnosed. The disorder causes frequent disruptions in breathing throughout the night from an obstruction in the upper airway. When the soft tissues in the back of the mouth or tongue collapse, you can stop breathing for up to one minute with each event. Not only does this deplete your body of oxygen, but it also affects your sleep quality. Every time you stop breathing, your brain will jolt you awake, interrupting your sleep cycle. Without treatment, sleep apnea can cause several complications that can affect your physical and mental health.
Alcohol Increases Sleep Apnea Disturbances
You don’t have to be diagnosed with sleep apnea to suffer from the harmful effects of alcohol. Several studies have found that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can cause episodes of obstructive sleep apnea, even in people who don’t have the condition. Not to mention, alcohol can prolong the time it takes to resume normal breathing patterns. If your blood’s oxygen levels drop too much, it can increase carbon dioxide in the body. The condition is called hypercapnia and can be fatal.
Alcohol causes your breathing to become slower and shallower, allowing the muscles in your mouth and throat to relax. This makes it more likely your upper airway will collapse, which can cause both snoring and an obstruction.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause a variety of symptoms that are often overlooked. The most common signs of sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Loud, chronic snoring
- Headache in the morning
- Dry mouth upon waking
- Restless sleep
- Increased urination at night
- Irritability or mood changes
- Depression or anxiety
- Memory loss or difficulty concentrating
- Sleep deprivation
- Waking choking or gasping
If you have any signs of sleep apnea, it’s best to avoid any alcohol until after having a sleep study to confirm or rule out the disorder. If sleep apnea is the cause, you have several options to breathe better, like an oral appliance. Your dentist has the solutions you need to sleep peacefully.
About Dr. Scott Parker
Dr. Parker earned his dental degree from Loma Linda University and has undergone continuing education to provide advanced services, like sleep apnea therapy. He is a proud member of various professional organizations, including the American Dental Association and the California Dental Association. If you need treatment for sleep apnea, contact our office today to see if an oral appliance is right for you.