Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

Lifestyle changes for OSA

You can help to manage the symptoms of OSA yourself by making some changes to the way you live.

Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, losing weight and having good bedtime habits can make a big difference. If you smoke, try to quit.

Lose weight 

Estimates vary, but around half of all people with OSA are overweight. Being overweight can affect your breathing. As your body weight increases, so do the number of breathing pauses when you’re asleep.

Your doctor can help you work out what your healthy weight should be and give you advice about how to lose weight.

Quit smoking

Research has suggested that smoking can damage your airways and make them more likely to collapse while you’re asleep. So it’s a good idea to quit if you can.

Keep active

As soon as you start to do more, the risks to your health reduce, so increasing your activity levels will be very good for you. It will help you to lose weight if you need to and to stop you putting weight on.

Aim to do at least 30 minutes’ moderate-intensity activity five times a week. This means activity that makes you breathe more heavily and raises your body temperature, while leaving you able to talk at the same time. Try to increase this to 60 and then to 90 minutes, if possible. And avoid sitting still for long periods.

It’s also a good idea to do physical activity that strengthens your muscles twice a week. Try activities that involve stepping and jumping, such as dancing. Carrying or moving heavy loads such as groceries counts too.


  • Ÿ If you use public transport, try to get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way
  • If you drive, park the car further away and walk the rest of the way
  • Ÿ Walk or cycle to the shops, to work or to social events
  • Ÿ Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Ÿ Exercise with a friend
  • Join a gym or exercise programme or go swimming with family or friends

Get better quality sleep

Good sleeping habits and sleep patterns are important to feeling well and happy, and are a supplement to other sleep treatments.

Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet and get seven to eight hours sleep a night.

If you sleep on your back, try sleeping on your side instead to relieve your symptoms.


For a good night’s sleep:

  • exercise every day - in the morning is best
  • go outdoors during the day and into sunlight or bright light
  • keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature for you
  • use your bed for sleep and sex only
  • do something to relax just before you go to bed, such as having a warm bath
  • if you find yourself always worrying at bedtime, try to find a time in the day to write down your worries and get them out of your system

What to avoid:

  • exercise within six hours of going to bed
  • going to bed too hungry or too full
  • eating heavy, spicy or sugary foods close to bedtime
  • having caffeine after lunch
  • smoking
  • drinking alcohol within four to six hours of your bedtime
  • using an electronic device such as a laptop, tablet or smart phone within 30 minutes of bedtime. Their artificial light interferes with your body’s sleepiness cues
  • taking a nap during the day

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Last medically reviewed: May 2016. Due for review: May 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.