Another winter approaches. And along with it, yet another coronavirus surge.
Sometimes it feels like we’re trapped in a loop, and there’s just no getting out of it. But the truth is we’re in a much better position this winter than last.
Sure, we still need to be careful to protect ourselves as the case counts grow. But we also now know a LOT more about our enemy.
We no longer have to live in fear of the idea that an invisible enemy may strike anytime, anywhere, and seemingly at random. Because we know how the virus spreads.
Just as important, we’re learning more every day about who’s at greater risk for catching it and why. This means those folks can take the necessary extra steps to protect themselves and reduce their risks.
Today I want to share the details of a recently discovered risk factor that could make you, or someone you care about, more vulnerable to developing a severe case of COVID-19.
It turns out a specific sound you make in the middle of the night could be a red flag that you’ll be at a higher risk for a complicated case if you catch the virus.
But once you spot it, you can take a few extra precautions to help you safely enjoy some well-deserved time with your loved ones this holiday season.
Nighttime noise sends severe COVID-19 risk soaring
We may not be able to end the COVID-19 madness… yet. But we certainly can get a lot closer to living a normal life than what we had a year ago.
And much of that is thanks to discoveries like the one in the new study. It identifies a risk factor that means you could have a tougher time fighting the virus than most folks.
It turns out a specific form of snoring can send your risk for a challenging case soaring. But it’s not just any old nighttime noise. It’s something called sleep apnea.
You can spot sleep apnea by listening for loud snores followed by complete silences. During those quiet moments, you literally stop breathing.
Sleep apnea is bad news even when you’re otherwise healthy, as it can lead to dangerously low blood oxygen levels. But it can be especially deadly if you develop a coronavirus infection.
A severe case of COVID-19 can cause what some doctors compare to a silent drowning as fluid builds up in the lungs and oxygen levels in the body plunge.
As a result, the new study finds COVID-19 patients with sleep apnea are:
- 31 percent more likely to be hospitalized
- 31 percent more likely to die
The catch is that many people with apnea don’t know they have it.
If you have sleep apnea, take these 2 steps
If you’re married, your spouse can certainly spot the warning signs of sleep apnea if they stay awake for a bit after you drift off. And maybe they already have. (If you’ve been banished to the sofa, you might have sleep apnea.)
Or you can spot some of the other signs on your own if you live alone, like regularly waking up with a headache or a sore throat. Or waking up feeling tired even after a whole night of sleep. People with apnea are often exhausted by midday as well.
There are sleep-monitoring apps you can download to your smartphone to help you identify a case of apnea. Or, if you’re still not sure, your doctor can help you find out by ordering a sleep study.
And if you do have sleep apnea, it’s time to act.
Action #1: If you weren’t already in a “special risk” category for COVID-19, you are now. And that means no messing around. You need to take extra precautions to avoid catching the virus whenever you go out, especially when case counts are high in your area.
That includes when you hang out with friends and family members who don’t live in your home. Plan for outdoor activities when possible, social distance if you can, and when inside for extended periods, consider wearing a mask, especially if you’re unsure if everyone is fully vaccinated.
Action #2: Over the longer term, you should focus on fighting sleep apnea. In most cases, losing even a little weight can help you breathe much easier at night. Studies show a weight loss of just 5 percent can help, and 10 percent or more may even cure sleep apnea in many cases.
There’s also one other wacky but effective thing you can try as you work on losing weight. And that is, believe it or not, tongue exercises.
I KNOW it sounds weird, but trust me, they really can work. You’ll find all the details, including how to do them, right here.