Many people can end up self-medicating for sleep apnea without even realizing it, as 80% of people suffering from this sleep disorder remain undiagnosed. People think they’re just tired, but in reality they’re suffering from a major sleep disorder and most symptoms go unnoticed during their sleep.
So, instead of seeking proper treatment they just try to figure out how to get better rest by turning to aids such as sleeping pills, alcohol, marijuana, and more, all of which can make sleep apnea much worse.
Self Medicating For Sleep Apnea Destroys Your Rest
Alcohol Prevents Quality Rest
It’s incredibly common to have a stiff drink or two after work to unwind, but nursing that buzz all the way til bedtime could do more harm than good because it disrupts sleep onset latency (SOL).
SOL regulates your sleep cycles so you can have the proper amount of deep sleep and REM sleep. As the cycles are disrupted you may not get as much deep or REM sleep you need, leaving you in a state of light sleep when you can easily be woken up. Your mind and body won’t be able to repair themselves without proper sleeping cycles either, so you won’t wake up refreshed.
Alcohol is also an acidic diuretic, so you may find yourself waking multiple times during the night for unpleasant bathroom trips. Plus, your nightcap may cause you to wake up due to painful acid reflux.
By being a CNS depressant, alcohol slows down the brain and relaxes the muscles associated with breathing including the throat, soft palate, and tongue. As a result, your airways become blocked, making your sleep apnea become worse.
Marijuana Leaves You Lethargic
We all know what happened in the 70’s. There was a rise in smoking to take the edge off. As states legalize pot and more studies are being performed on the healing properties of this plant, it’s becoming known as a sleep aid.
In fact, it may actually help treat sleep apnea one day, but it’s not there yet. During a sleep study dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC, was used to treat those with sleep apnea. It was found to target the brain and affect the muscles controlling your upper airway to keep them clear and open for better rest.
However, this was due to a synthetic compound. If you smoke the plant you won’t know what active ingredients are in the strain. Different levels of THC and CBD will affect your rest. It may inhibit your REM sleep and you could wake up feeling groggy, exhausted, and dehydrated.
Plus, cannabis is psychoactive and could cause anxiety. You don’t want to be laying there awake in a state of paranoia or caught with the drug if you’re in a state where possession is illegal.
Can’t go to sleep? Well, there’s a pill for that. From sleeping medications to allergy pills, you’ll find a large variety of medications that help you go to sleep faster. However, they should be used with caution.
Many of these medications can carry over to the next day, causing fatigue, drowsiness, and impaired judgment on the way to and while at work. Also, as they relax your body they relax your muscles responsible for breathing too.
Some people try and use muscle relaxing medication for a sleep aid. Though this would help you feel less pain and fall asleep if you had a sore back or an injury, taking a muscle relaxer would be counterproductive to combating sleep apnea.
Your soft palate, throat, and tongue will fall backward, blocking your airways, causing them to become blocked. As a result, your sleep apnea will become worse.
Use A CPAP
Wake up to the fact that you might be accidentally self-medicating for sleep apnea! If you have trouble going to sleep, staying asleep, and wake up feeling exhausted you may be experiencing symptoms without even knowing it. We aren’t saying give up your vices, just keep in mind that sleep aids such as marijuana, sleeping pills, or alcohol that might leave you waking up more tired than before. Take a simple at-home sleep apnea test to see if you need a CPAP for sleep apnea or not. CPAP machines are the most successful treatment method for sleep apnea and will help you get the quality rest you need.