Traveling to high altitude areas can have a temporary but profound effect on your body, including sleep difficulties. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may be impacted to an even greater degree.
Studies show that because there is less oxygen in the air at high altitudes, your body undergoes a series of adjustments known as acclimatization that can impact your ability to sleep. It also causes a breathing pattern known as high-altitude periodic breathing.
Frequent awakenings, lighter sleep, and less overall sleep time are other problems associated with moving to a higher altitude. These are similar to genuine sleep apnea, but symptoms usually improve after a few nights for healthy individuals.
If you suffer from sleep apnea and are planning a trip to the mountains, first take a trip to our sleep center and talk with our specialists. That way you can address potential problems head on. We will make solid recommendations on how you can get a restful night’s sleep whether at home or when traveling to high altitudes.
Our top tips include the following:
- If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and do not use CPAP, ask our team if the temporary use of CPAP would be helpful during your trip. If you do use a CPAP, elevation changes between sea level and 10,100 feet don’t significantly alter CPAP pressure requirements.
- We can outfit you with an oral appliance if your sleep apnea is mild or moderate. Talk to our team to see if this device is right for you.
- Drink plenty of water throughout your visit. According to the Institute for Altitude Medicine, your body loses water through respiration at high altitude twice as quickly as it does at sea level, and dehydration can interrupt your sleep patterns. For optimal health, plan to drink much more water than you typically would.
- Select a sleeping altitude that is as low as possible, such as hotel rooms and/or bedrooms located on the ground floor. If possible, choose a place to stay that is lower in elevation than you originally planned.
- Consider medication if you have a history of severe altitude sickness.
Traveling to high-elevation destinations presents unique sleeping challenges to everyone, especially those diagnosed with sleep apnea. There is no single recommendation for adjusting to high altitudes with sleep apnea, but advance planning may allow patients to more easily enjoy a restful and relaxing trip.
Contact our sleep apnea specialists today for more helpful advice or to schedule a consultation with our Sleep Apnea dentist.