April 07, 2022 · 3 Minute read
April 07, 2022

Smoking and Sleep Apnea

3 Minute read

Smoking, in and of itself, has nothing but a negative impact on your health. When smoking is combined with sleep apnea, you have one of the worst pairings possible. If you are a smoker and have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or if you know someone who has, you should learn everything you can about the relationship between the two.

Let's get started right away!

Can smoking cause sleep apnea?

hand holding a smoking cigarette

In general, sleep apnea can happen to anyone. It can be genetic or caused by external factors. Some people might have been fated to deal with sleep apnea anyway, but their careless routine and diet could have accelerated the symptoms or caused them to show up faster.

Smoking is one of those heavy risk factors that can both cause sleep apnea to speed up and make it worse if one continues after the diagnosis. Statistics suggest compared to people who never took a puff in their life, smokers have three times the chance of ending up with obstructive sleep apnea.

Those who smoke currently also have a higher chance of ending up with sleep apnea than a former smoker. This is assuring in that it suggests abstaining from smoking can prevent and improve your sleep apnea conditions.

Nicotine is an irritant of sorts. It can lead a person’s nose and throat to swell. As such, the upper airways can become constricted, messing with the airflow. The person has a harder time breathing due to itchy and inflamed tissues of the throat. These persisting conditions can result in sleep apnea.

Is smoking risky if you have sleep apnea?

hand putting out a cigarette

As much as one should not be smoking if they don’t want to develop sleep apnea, a person really shouldn’t be anywhere near smoke if they do have it.

Smoking can only make your sleep apnea worse. Nicotine functions similarly to sugar and coffee. It disrupts the body's circadian clock. Given that sleep apnea can make it difficult to sleep and cause a person to wake up repeatedly throughout the night, smoking only contributes to exacerbate the condition.

Then, there’s the real risk of damaging the upper airway and congesting the airway with mucous, all of which makes it hard to breathe, sleep or even talk without a scratchy throat.

A person with sleep apnea who hasn’t started their CPAP therapy and continues to smoke might develop heart problems, diabetes, and bad blood pressure issues.

Does smoking interfere with CPAP therapy?

The most common course for treating obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. However, any healing done by CPAP can be undone easily by smoking. No matter how much pure air is being supplied to your body at night, if the nicotine is determined to irritate your upper airways, therapy won’t be as effective.

You would be able to quit smoking in general if you dedicated yourself to your CPAP therapy. You may not want to smoke at all if you get adequate sleep and feel more in control of yourself without the sleep apnea making you feel sleepy all day.

Final Thoughts

Addictions like smoking or even a simple coffee addiction can be hard to get rid of. However, continuing that path while you have sleep apnea means never feeling in control of your body. You are always disoriented throughout the day and begging to have some sleep at night.

When you start your CPAP therapy, after the initial discomfort, you will feel optimistic about not smoking of your own accord. Additionally, healthcare professionals are more than happy to guide you along. Talk to the doctor treating your sleep apnea and decide on the best course of action to quit smoking.

Written by Karina Lima

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