7 Things that Worsen Sleep Apnea

by Florence Cardinal Patient Expert

Most people know that sleep apnea is a leading cause of death from heart attacks and strokes. However recent research has revealed that sleep apnea is a leading cause of death from many causes, even in people judged to be healthy.

Weight gain

Excess weight increases flab in the throat area that can clog airways. The bad news is that sleep apnea can cause weight gain by increasing the appetite for poor food choices and hormonal changes also lead to weight gain. Also, because sleep apnea leads to sleep deprivation and inability to be as active as you once were, weight loss through exercise is less likely.


Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, and loosens the muscles in the throat, which can cause obstruction of the airways.


Muscle relaxants, like alcohol, loosen muscles and bring about obstruction of the airways. Sleeping pills cause a deeper sleep, making it more difficult to awaken and resume breathing during an apnea.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep apnea, with it's restless sleep, naturally causes loss of sleep and loss of sleep tends to worsen sleep apnea.


Smoking is just generally bad for anyone, but for those with sleep apnea with air passages already sore from snoring and gasping for air, smoking just adds another irritant to increase the poor condition of throat and mouth.


A person's own anatomy can also play a part in adding to the misery of sleep apnea. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids, deviated septum or enlarged uvula are all risks of worsening sleep apnea. It's also been noted that people with large necks, especially if they are obese, are also more likely to be at risk for sleep apnea.

Sleep position

Sleep apnea is worse for those who sleep on their backs. One way to facilitate sleeping on your side is to sew tennis balls or something similar into the back of your pajama top to make it difficult to lie on your back.

Florence Cardinal
Meet Our Writer
Florence Cardinal

Florence wrote for HealthCentral as patient expert for Sleep Disorders.