Since 1987, April has been Alcohol Awareness Month according to the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD). The goal of Alcohol Awareness Month is to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. To join in on this effort in raising alcohol awareness, at Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia, we want to help you better understand the connection between sleep apnea and alcohol.

Alcohol may affect sleep and impact sleep apnea in several ways. So, should people with sleep apnea never drink alcohol? Will limiting alcohol at least help a little? Let’s take a look at the answers so you can help your patients protect themselves during April and beyond.

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

Alcohol is a substance that may have significant impacts on a person’s overall health. However, many people may not realize that alcohol may also affect their sleep, especially if they suffer from sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing conditions. Why? Well, alcohol can decrease a person’s drive to breathe, which slows down breathing and makes breaths shallow. In addition, it may relax the muscles of the throat, which may make it more likely for the upper airway to collapse.

As a result, alcohol use causes apnea events to occur more frequently in someone who is predisposed to them. Drops in oxygen levels of the blood also become more severe, which may lead to increased carbon dioxide levels in the body, a condition called hypercapnia. And, with pronounced alcohol use, the consequences of sleep apnea may become more pronounced.

If you currently suffer from sleep apnea, the best advice would be to abstain from all alcohol use or, at the very least, do not use alcohol within several hours prior to bedtime to help minimize the effects experienced overnight. It is also important to utilize your oral appliance or CPAP machine if you do suffer from sleep apnea—these treatment options will help during the night.

So, for April and every month after, you can have your fun, but remember to remain informed of the negative affects of alcohol on sleep apnea. Contact Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia for more information on alcohol and sleep apnea, and how you can further protect yourself.