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COVID-19: Implications for Sleep Apnea and Sleep Testing

COVID-19 continues to spread across global communities, which raises many concerns about our susceptibility to the novel coronavirus and how we can stay healthy during this uncertain time. Sleep is one of the pillars of good health and wellbeing. It is critical to our mental and physical health and has the power to strengthen our immune system to help fight COVID-19. Our sleep specialists answer your most frequently asked questions on sleep and the coronavirus.

If I have sleep apnea, am I more susceptible to contracting COVID-19?

Sleep apnea alone does not increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. Yet many people who are diagnosed with sleep apnea have other serious health conditions that may increase their risk of complications from the novel coronavirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with a high risk for serious complications from COVID-19 include those with medical conditions such as:
• Chronic lung disease
• Diabetes Mellitus
• Severe obesity
• Serious heart conditions
• Chronic kidney disease
• Liver disease
• Those whose immunity is compromised from conditions such as cancer treatment, smoking, organ transplant, immune deficiencies and autoimmune disorders requiring immunosuppressive drugs.
People over the age of 65 are also at a higher risk of developing dangerous symptoms from the coronavirus. If you suffer from sleep apnea and also have underlying health issues, you may be more at risk for complications from COVID-19.

Can CPAP spread COVID-19 to people around me?

Yes, using a CPAP machine can spread the coronavirus if you are infected. When you wear a CPAP mask, air may leak from the edges of the mask, infecting someone within six feet (two meters). If you are using CPAP while sleeping beside someone and you have the coronavirus, you can transmit the virus to your bed partner. Current evidence suggests that particles containing COVID-19 can remain in the air for several hours, which could spread the coronavirus to those in the same room. COVID-19 can also live on surfaces for a long period of time, and if someone touches a surface infected with the virus and then touches their eyes, mouth or nose, they could contract COVID-19.
If you have COVID-19, it is recommended that you sleep in a separate room and continue to use CPAP to treat your sleep apnea so that you can obtain optimal quantity and quality of sleep. If you are unable to self-isolate, contact a health care professional who may suggest other treatments for your sleep apnea while you are recovering from COVID-19.

Does CPAP help treat COVID-19?

CPAP is treatment for sleep apnea only. It does not speed up recovery from COVID-19. But getting the optimal quantity and quality of sleep helps to strengthen your immune system, improving your overall health. If you have a weakened immune system, you may be more susceptible to serious viruses such as COVID-19.
Untreated sleep apnea is usually associated with oxygen desaturation during sleep and Covid-19 affecting the lungs can also cause significant oxygen desaturation.

I’m not sleeping well during the COVID-19 outbreak. What should I do?

Social distancing and working from home can affect your normal routine, which affects your sleep patterns. Health and economic worries and isolation can also heighten stress and anxiety, which may be keeping you up at night. During this uncertain time, try to:
• Maintain a regular wake and bedtime
• Try to avoid napping
• Keep to a normal work/life routine as much as possible
• Ensure you have physical activity every day, even if it is indoors
• Minimize screen time close to bedtime
• Expose yourself to natural light during the day to maintain your natural circadian rhythm that helps you feel awake during daylight hours and sleepy at night
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine near bedtime
• Find ways to relax, including yoga, deep breathing or reading
• Reserve sleeping for your bedroom. Do not read or watch TV in bed.