In sleep apnea, breathing stops and starts repeatedly. The disorder affects millions of adults in America, and most of the affected people go undiagnosed. Untreated sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes, depression, chronic heart failure, and memory loss. Additionally, the ensuing daytime drowsiness can lead to traffic accidents, workplace accidents or other dangerous outcomes. If you are deemed at risk, a specialist dealing with sleep apnea in The Woodlands can help you manage the condition.

This article takes a look at some of the factors that can exacerbate sleep apnea:

1. Other Existing Medical Conditions

Diabetes and high blood pressure increase an individual’s risk for cardiovascular diseases, and are linked to higher sleep apnea rates. A substantial portion of high blood pressure patients also suffer from sleep apnea. And, the condition is more prevalent among those experiencing drug-resistant hypertension. However, adhering to recommended sleep apnea treatments can help to reduce blood pressure. A huge portion of people with Type 2 diabetes also suffer from sleep apnea as well. The severity of the breathing problem directly affects symptoms of diabetes, and conversely, inadequate control of glucose is connected to advanced sleep apnea levels

2. Weight Gain

Obesity is the main contributory factor to sleep apnea. Too many pounds may bulk up tissue surrounding the airway, making it more susceptible to collapsing during muscle relaxation at night. Similarly, the necks of bigger individuals are usually thicker, which may also contribute to the condition. While slim people can suffer from sleep apnea too, more than 50% of people with this disorder are overweight. In addition, if someone has sleep apnea already and gains weight, it’s likely that the condition will worsen.

3. Taking Alcohol

Alcohol causes muscle relaxation in the body, which also relaxes the throat muscles and the tongue muscle. This increases the vulnerability of the airway to blockage during sleep. Although the effects of alcohol tend to diminish over time, cutting down on consumption is essential.  

4. Smoking

Smoking can increase your chances of developing sleep apnea and worsen the issue for those already affected by it. The tobacco smoke directly irritates the upper airway, soft palate, uvula, tongue and throat, and can cause swelling in that region. Moreover, smoking is the leading reason behind chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, which leads to narrower and inflamed airways.

5. Medicines

Prescription medicines may also worsen sleep apnea. Muscle relaxants, for example, expose you to more snoring and apnea, and most sleep medications possess a muscle relaxant property. Moreover, sleeping pills frequently make it more difficult to awaken from sleep. Painkillers, especially opioids may also be an issue because they suppress breathing and add to respiratory problems during sleep.

6. Sleep Position

Sleeping on your back usually worsens sleep apnea, while sleeping on the side helps to alleviate the condition. It is all about how and where your weight lies on the airway. When you sleep on your back, your tongue relaxes back further, making sleep apnea worse. Positional therapy devices can help to make you lie on your side at night.


If your sleep apnea is becoming worse, you can start by getting rid of any of the avoidable risk factors, like smoking. Despite making the changes that could improve your sleep apnea, you should talk to a sleep apnea specialist.