As COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, people everywhere are deeply concerned about protecting their health. Certain groups are at an especially high risk of suffering severe complications if they contract the coronavirus — and sleep apnea sufferers may be one of those groups. As we discuss in this article, there are strong reasons why individuals with the sleep disorder need to be extra cautious as they seek to safeguard their health during this critical time.
Sleep Apnea and COVID-19 Risk Factors
Older individuals, as well as those with serious health conditions, are more likely than the general population to be hard-hit by COVID-19. In fact, the COVID-19 mortality rate for people with preexisting health problems is 6 – 10.5%, compared to 0.9% for otherwise healthy patients.
Age and serious health conditions are also related to sleep apnea. For example, research indicates that older individuals are at an increased risk of sleep disordered breathing. Other studies have found that sleep apnea may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other systemic conditions that are linked to an increased COVID-19 mortality rate.
Furthermore, keep in mind that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, as is sleep apnea. Even though they affect different portions of the respiratory tract (sleep apnea affects the upper airway, while COVID-19 affects the lower airway), having to deal with both conditions at once may be extremely difficult for the human body.
If you have sleep apnea, there are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself from COVID-19. In addition to adhering to social distancing recommendations, you should:
- Take care of your CPAP. Store your machine in a place where no one will cough or sneeze on it. Keeping your machine clean is vital because if the virus gets caught in it, the pressurized air could facilitate the contagion’s pathway into your body. You might even want to sanitize your CPAP daily. Also, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands before you place the CPAP mask on your face.
- Use a CPAP alternative if available. If you have an oral sleep appliance, it might be easier and simpler to sterilize than your CPAP machine.
- Do not suspend your sleep apnea treatment. Getting enough high-quality sleep can fortify your immune system and help you to fight off a range of contagions.
- If you have concerns, contact an expert. If you have questions about how you can both manage your sleep apnea and keep your risk of COVID-19 to a minimum, get in touch with a sleep apnea expert. A dentist who provides sleep apnea therapy may be a good place to start.
The above information is not meant to scare you, but it is meant to motivate you. Applying the above guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic could save your life!
Dr. Keith Hollinger is a dentist who has been in practice for over 25 years. He has completed extensive training in oral appliance therapy to treat sleep apnea. He is also a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If you have questions about how you can manage your sleep apnea while keeping your COVID-19 risk to a minimum, contact Dr. Hollinger’s team at 860-430-5687.