Thousands of 5-Star Reviews From Real Customers - Find Out Why Our Customers Love Us Here!
Canadian Med Center

Lifestyle Tips for Effective Sleep Apnea Management

Monday 4 March 2024
Sleep Apnea
9 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Optimizing Your Sleep Environment

II. Healthy Sleep Habits

III. Weight Management

IV. Conclusion

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you know that getting a good night's rest can feel like an uphill battle. But with a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle adjustments, you can dramatically improve your quality of sleep.

In this article, we will explore practical steps you can take to enhance your sleep environment, habits, and overall health.

Optimizing Your Sleep Environment

an empty brown and white bed

Creating an optimal sleep environment is key to getting the restful sleep you need. From choosing a good mattress to adjusting your bedroom temperature, small tweaks can make a big difference in your comfort and sleep quality.

Mattress and Pillows

Most people prefer certain sleeping positions, such as on their back, side, or stomach. Finding the right mattress and pillow setup for your sleeping position can greatly affect how well you sleep and feel during the day.

For those with sleep apnea, sleeping position is even more important. Sleeping on your back is the least ideal position, as it can cause your tongue and tissues to collapse into the airway, obstructing breathing. Side sleeping or stomach sleeping are better options. [1]

Regardless of which sleeping position you prefer, we've included mattress and pillow options for every situation:

  • Sleeping on your back: Choose a firm mattress and a thin pillow to keep your spine aligned. Place a pillow under your knees for added comfort. Sleeping on your back is the least ideal position for sleep apnea, as your tongue and tissues can collapse into the airway. To reduce this risk, turn your head to the side.
  • Sleeping on your stomach: Use a soft, thick pillow and firm mattress. Position your head facedown towards the mattress to keep the airway open.
  • Sleeping on your side: Side sleeping is the best position for sleep apnea. Use a contouring memory foam mattress to relieve pressure points in your shoulders and hips. Choose an ultra-thin pillow and extend your body to maximize lung capacity. Avoid curling up, which can worsen acid reflux and sleep apnea. [1]

Noise Reduction

A quiet bedroom free of noise is ideal for sleep. Research has shown that even low noise levels can cause us to shift into lighter sleep stages or wake up momentarily, leaving us feeling groggy and unrefreshed in the morning. [2]

There are several ways you can reduce noise in your bedroom and promote better sleep:

  • White noise: The gentle hum of a fan or a white noise machine can mask other noises. These steady sounds act as a buffer, helping to drown out disturbances.
  • Ambient sounds or soothing music: Listening to gentle rainfall or piano melodies can ease anxiety as you drift off. Experiment with different sounds and genres to find what works best for you.
  • Noise-blocking curtains: These curtains insulate your bedroom from the hustle and bustle outside. They’re designed to absorb and dampen sound, ensuring you get restful sleep. [2]

Temperature and Humidity Control

As we sleep, our bodies naturally cool down. This drop in core body temperature signals our brains that it's time for rest. Experts recommend keeping your bedroom around 65°F for ideal sleeping conditions. While this may seem chilly initially, maintaining a lower temperature leads to deeper, more restorative sleep. [2]

If you find 65°F too cold, aim for a temperature between 60 to 72°F to find your optimal balance between coziness and coolness. Add an extra blanket or two if you need more warmth. [2]

In addition to temperature, it's essential to consider the humidity level in your sleep environment. Dry air can cause discomfort and contribute to a dry mouth, sore throat, and stuffy nose. This is particularly relevant for individuals with sleep apnea or those using CPAP machines. [3]

Fortunately, most CPAP machines have a built-in humidifier that can be adjusted to your comfort level. This helps alleviate dry mouth symptoms and ensures a more pleasant sleep. However, some individuals may find that using a separate humidifier in their bedroom, in addition to the CPAP humidifier, provides better relief. [3]

Healthy Sleep Habits

a woman reading in bed

If you’re struggling with sleep apnea, incorporating healthy sleep habits can significantly improve your sleep quality. While other treatments may be necessary, developing positive bedtime routines and optimizing the sleep environment can play a vital role in enhancing your overall sleep experience.

Regular Sleep Schedule

Sleeping well each night starts with setting up a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends, helps establish your body's circadian rhythm and optimize your sleep. Here are some tips to help you establish a regular sleep schedule:

  • Have a fixed wake-up time: Try to get up at the same time every morning, including weekends. Waking up at different times disrupts your body's internal clock and makes it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Follow a calming bedtime routine: Having consistent activities before bed, like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or light yoga stretches, cues your body that it's time to sleep.
  • Budget time for winding down: Give yourself at least 30 minutes of buffer time to unwind before your target bedtime. Do something calming like listening to soft music, meditating, or journaling.
  • Make sleep a priority: While it can be tempting to stay up late to work, study, or socialize, it's important to prioritize your sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night to get the rest you need. Calculate your target bedtime based on your wake-up time.
  • Limit napping: Although short power naps can be rejuvenating, too much napping during the day can interfere with nighttime sleep. Limit naps to 30 minutes and avoid them after mid-afternoon.
  • Dim the lights: Exposure to light suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Dim the lights in your home during the evening to avoid disrupting your body's natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Don’t toss and turn: If you haven't fallen asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy, then return to bed. Lying awake can cause anxiety and make insomnia worse. [4]

Relaxation Techniques

If you struggle with sleep apnea, you know that getting a good night's rest can sometimes be frustrating. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate the problem, leaving you feeling drained and exhausted.

The good news is that there are many relaxation techniques you can do in bed that help you drift off to sleep naturally.

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing): This breathing exercise reduces stress and increases relaxation. It also strengthens your diaphragm to help you breathe more efficiently. Since many of us aren’t used to using our diaphragm when we breathe, this exercise may take some practice.
  • Lie down and place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose so your stomach pushes against your lower hand.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles and exhale slowly through pursed lips.
  • Repeat this process, keeping the chest relaxed while the belly rises and falls with each breath.
  1. 4-7-8 breathing: This technique helps slow your breathing before bed.
  • Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale gently through your mouth for 8 seconds.
  1. Body Scan: This type of meditation involves focusing your attention on different parts of your body.
  • Get comfortable in bed and take a few deep breaths to relax.
  • Bring your attention to your feet, noticing any tension. Breathe into areas of tension.
  • Slowly move your attention up through each body part, relaxing as you go.
  1. Progressive muscle relaxation: This exercise can help you release tension and promote relaxation. Once you’re comfortable in bed, tense and release muscle groups to promote relaxation. You can customize the muscle groups to your preference, but a typical sequence might include:
  • Toes and feet
  • Legs and thighs
  • Hips and butt
  • Stomach and back
  • Hands, wrist, and forearms
  • Biceps, shoulders, and chest
  • Front and back of the neck
  • Mouth, cheeks, and jaw
  • Eyes, nose, and forehead. [5]

Caffeine, Alcohol, and Melatonin

Caffeine, alcohol, and melatonin can negatively impact your sleep quality if not timed properly. The good news is that you don’t have to eliminate them completely to sleep well.

By understanding how to time your consumption appropriately, you can still enjoy these substances without compromising your sleep. 

  • Caffeine is well known for its alerting properties, but many don't realize its stimulating effects can last for hours after that initial jolt of energy. Caffeine lingers in your system long after you feel its effects, disrupting sleep even if you don't feel wide awake. To allow enough time for caffeine to clear your system, stop consuming it at least 8 hours before bedtime. [6]
  • Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster as its sedating effects kick in initially. However, it also disrupts normal sleep cycles later in the night. As liver enzymes metabolize alcohol and remove it from your body, the sedating effect wears off, and sleep becomes lighter and more restless. For less disrupted sleep, avoid alcohol for 3 hours before bedtime. [6]
  • Melatonin is a popular over-the-counter sleep aid. Your body naturally increases melatonin production in the evening to signal it's time for rest. Supplemental melatonin works best when timed right before this natural rise. Take it 30 to 60 minutes before your regular bedtime. If it’s taken too early, it could shift your body clock in the wrong direction. [7]

Weight Management

a group of people walking in the park

Sleep and weight have a complex relationship that can easily become a vicious cycle. Not getting enough restful sleep can lead to weight gain, and being overweight can also cause serious sleep issues. [8]

  • Sleep loss leading to weight gain: When we don't get enough sleep, our body's hormone production goes out of balance. Leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, get thrown off when we are sleep-deprived. This leads to increased cravings, particularly for high-calorie foods. At the same time, being tired reduces our willpower to resist those cravings. Over time, these changes promote overeating and weight gain.
  • Weight gain leading to sleep loss: Excess weight can lead to conditions that interfere with sleep, such as sleep apnea, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, osteoarthritis, and other issues. There is also evidence that obesity may alter metabolism and circadian rhythms in a way that reduces sleep quality. [8]

While this cycle may seem frustrating, there are practical steps we can take to get back on track with both sleep and weight:

  • Exercise: Getting regular exercise, especially outdoors during daylight, enhances sleep quality. Engaging in 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week can significantly improve energy during the day and sleepiness at night.
  • Healthy diet: Eating a balanced, low-carb diet supports healthy sleep patterns. Be mindful of food choices and avoid large meals 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress takes a toll on both sleep and weight. Establishing effective stress relief habits like meditation, yoga, or talking with a friend can make a big difference. [8]


While medical interventions are crucial in managing sleep apnea, many lifestyle changes can significantly enhance sleep quality. Simple adjustments to your daily habits and sleep environment can go a long way.

To learn more about sleep apnea, visit our sleep apnea blog for more topics.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.