My husband decided to stop drinking caffeine. Since then, his obstructive sleep apnea has improved. Is there research to support a connection between sleep apnea and caffeine?
Answer From Eric J. Olson, M.D.
A couple of studies have looked at the potential connections between caffeine use and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
One study showed that caffeinated soda use may be associated with more severe sleep-disordered breathing, such as OSA. But tea or coffee use didn't appear to be associated with more severe sleep-disordered breathing.
In another study, caffeine seemed to improve thinking (cognitive) function in people with obstructive sleep apnea.
In addition, doctors sometimes prescribe caffeine for premature infants to reduce episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep.
But more study is needed to understand how caffeine use affects people with OSA.
Meanwhile, making lifestyle changes may help manage some cases of obstructive sleep apnea. These include:
- Losing excess weight
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding medications that relax the muscles in the back of your throat
- Sleeping on your side or stomach rather than on your back
If lifestyle changes don't help, treatment with an oral appliance or other device may be needed to keep the airway open in people with OSA. In certain cases, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure.
May 25, 2021
- Norman D, et al. Caffeine intake is independently associated with neuropsychological performance in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep & Breathing. 2008;12:199.
- Hay WW, et al. The newborn infant. In Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 24th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2018. https:// accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed March 20, 2019.
- NINDS sleep apnea information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sleep_apnea/sleep_apnea.htm. Accessed March 20, 2019.
- Aurora RN, et al. Sleep-disordered breathing and caffeine consumption: Results of a community-based study. Chest. 2012;142:631.