♠ What Foods Should People With Sleep Apnea Eat?
Most people know that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea, and is caused by complete or partial obstruction of the upper airway.
The two major underlying causes of obstructive sleep apnea are weak upper airway muscles and/or excess tissue in the throat. There may be contributing factors too, as well as issues that exacerbate the pre-existing condition.
But did you know there are some foods that can help to alleviate these sleep apnea complications?
In this article we cover 13 of those foods, along with 1 type of diet.
Let's dive in!
♠ Losing excess weight with the Mediterranean Diet
It is no surprise that losing weight and pursuing a healthier diet with an associated exercise program will help greatly with sleep apnea.
But, many people are not able to, for a variety of reasons, practice an exercise program. So, the best course of action is to reduce high calorie consumption.
Many people have found that using the Mediterranean diet or a healthier diet that incorporates lots of fresh vegetables, lean meats, and good, healthy fats like olive oil can help you to lose weight and benefit sleep apnea patients.
There is a considerable amount of research that has been replicated dozens of times to show that the Mediterranean diet is highly beneficial for everyone including sleep apnea sufferers.
It's been discovered that eating less and losing weight lower adipose tissue (know as visceral fat) in seep apnea patients.
This adipose or visceral fat surrounds our internal organs and serves to cushion them, but in overweight individuals it may fill up space internally that can constrict and press against your airway causing an obstruction to happen much more readily.
When visceral fat accumulates around the upper airways (as a person becomes restful and the consciously regulated muscles relax, since there is an excess of fat) the wall of the airway sags and ends up allowing the airway itself to fall closed.
That is the reason that apnea typically only happens while you're asleep and why losing weight and excess adipose fat will help relieving the condition.
♠ What does the Mediterranean Diet consist of?
In short, the diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish, bean and legumes, herbs, nuts, and olive oil.
Of course, while it seems obvious that these things are good for you, most Americans and people in other developed countries are eating less of these types of healthy foods.
A healthy, Mediterranean influenced diet is both delicious and contributes to your overall health. It particularly helps you lose weight and improve your sleep apnea condition.
♠ Try Spicy Foods
Strong tasting and spicy foods such as those containing chili peppers, black pepper, horseradish, mustard seed, wasabi, and others that are strong and pungent, help to stimulate a loosening of the mucus and help to clear nasal congestion.
Besides tasting good and giving food a certain zip that nothing else can, these spicy additions to our meals can help to clear your sinuses and can help to equalize the pressure that keeps your airway open and keeps you breathing during sleep.
Research shows that people with sinus congestion and allergy problems are more likely to have complications with sleep apnea.
So, eat all the spicy food that you want and remember to flush your sinuses by either blowing your nose regularly after spicy meals, by using a nasal lavage system like Neti Pot, or by using a saline nasal spray to keep your nose and sinuses clear.
♠ Hot Coffee, Hot Tea, and Hot Chocolate (Decaf, of course)
Try drinking hot beverages such as hot tea, hot coffee, or hot chocolate. They are known to help clear your head of mucus and obstructions. Just be careful to choose a decaffeinated version, especially if you are caffeine sensitive.
Remember that caffeine can interrupt the sleep cycle, so if you are having sleep problems from not resting adequately from apnea, don’t mess up and choose regular caffeinated coffee and keep yourself awake needlessly.
There are many sedating and soothing teas that do not contain caffeine at all. A good choice would be chamomile tea, rosemary tea, or lavender tea.
These three types of teas are mildly sedating, will not interfere with your sleep cycle and they are tried-and-true restful teas that have been used for generations without any negative effects.
Much like spicy foods, their herbal qualities are effervescent, clear the sinuses, and keep the airways open and your air flowing.
Ginseng tea, even though it is mildly stimulating, is quite beneficial for sleep apnea patients since some research has shown that it helps the body use oxygen more efficiently.
This is helpful to sleep apnea patients who have the commonly associated hypoxemia or low-oxygen saturation resulting from iron deficiency.
♠ Soups and Stews
Just as hot beverages are help in clearing your airway and your sinuses, hot soups and stews can help you to breathe more freely.
Remember grandma telling you about the benefits of chicken soup? Well, there is significant research showing that chicken soup really does have as many health benefits as grandma said it did.
If you want to maximize the benefits of chicken soup, try adding some spices to it to get the added benefits.
Adding herbs and especially chilees to your chicken soup can not only add to its flavor but it can also make it more effervescent and help it clear the airway even more.
For an Asian flair, try adding a dash of soy sauce and a healthy amount of ginger. Ginger is an herb that has amazing healing and antiviral properties.
It is a great addition to a healthy chicken soup recipe and adds a certain zing that is reminiscent of oriental cuisine and you may find that it adds to the nasal clearing properties of your chicken soup recipe.
♠ Almonds and other nuts
Nuts, particularly almonds, contain significant amount of magnesium. Magnesium is an essential element for proper cellular growth and development as well as mental health.
Your nerves, brain, and nervous system use magnesium constantly and your body must replenish its magnesium supply through diet.
However, due to mass agriculture, our soil has been depleted of its magnesium content and therefore most people do not receive adequate levels of magnesium through their diet anymore.
If you do not choose to consume magnesium rich foods, then you may consider taking magnesium supplements in the form of pills, by using mag-water, using magnesium oil on your skin, or adding small amounts of magnesium salts to your salt shaker.
All of these methods are excellent ways to add magnesium, which has a relaxing effect on your overall system and may help you sleep better.
Consider taking an Epsom salts (magnesium salt) bath and soaking in the warm Epsom water for 10 to 20 minutes. This will allow your body to outsource your amounts of magnesium and may aid in restful sleep.
♠ Try eating bananas
It's ironic that the banana that is often eaten for breakfast can actually make you sleepy. Not only do bananas contain the substance tryptophan, which is a natural hormone that induces sleep cycle, but bananas also contain the precursor chemicals that are used in the formation of melatonin which is another sleep inducing hormone produced by our bodies.
So, if you're feeling a little sluggish after having a banana for breakfast or lunch, then you are feeling the effects of the tryptophan and melatonin precursors that are present in the banana’s fruit flesh.
These chemicals are believed to be present in banana in order to discourage predators and insects from eating banana fruit.
Bananas can be a helpful fruit for those with sleep apnea, although some experts warn against them since bananas can stimulate increased mucus production.
So, try them yourself and watch for any problems. If you are one of the people who get stuffy sinuses after consuming them, then bananas are not for you.
♠ Chickpeas or garbanzo beans
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a very healthy legume that can add a lot of protein and fiber to your diet. Above all, garbanzo beans are very rich in tryptophan, They can help you fall asleep and regulate your sleep cycle.
Sleep researchers recommend chickpea consumption because not only are they part of a healthy diet, but they can also help you drift off to sleep more easily.
Chickpeas can help you have a more restful sleep and help reduce weight which further assists the sleep apnea sufferer to have a sound and restful sleep.
♠ Oatmeal or porridge
Oatmeal or porridge are good for conditions such as sleep apnea due to their calming effect on the system.
You might try cooking your oatmeal with a small amount of milk or cream, a small pat of butter, a little bit of honey to sweeten it, and a pinch or two of cinnamon.
All of the above ingredients are very soothing and calming. The above recipe recipe is sure to put you in a warm and cuddly mood that will make you ready to go to bed and have a great night’s sleep.
A bowl of porridge brings a better night's sleep to sleep apnea sufferers.
Saffron is an herb that has been used for centuries around the world by various cultures to help induce sleep.
Saffron is harvested from the center of a certain type of lower and is often sold either as bright orange threads or as a powder.
María José San Román, who forms part of a select group of women chefs says, "Saffron is the sleeping pill!" she says. "If you put saffron on your tongue it will fall asleep. I remember when my kids were small and their teeth were coming out, my mother would say: 'You have to put saffron on their teeth.' It has the same effect on the stomach."
And, intriguingly, a 2009 study at Mashhad University in Iran revealed an extract of saffron did have soporific qualities, on mice at least. "The mice trial is interesting," concedes Morgan.
"The rodent model of the nervous system has served us well. There is something worth investigating here. Most products currently used for insomniacs started their lives in scientific laboratories being injected into rodents."
Many experts believe that consuming a couple eggs before bedtime can help put your body into a restful sleep state.
Eggs are low-calorie proteins. Making them a part of your diet promotes weight loss and can reduce Sleep Apnea.
While once enunciated as being unhealthy, it is now believed that eggs contain valuable omega fatty acids that are in fact beneficial and as long as eggs are not over-consumed, they can be a helpful part of your diet.
So, if it's all right for you to eat eggs, then try a few before bed and see if you feel sleepier or if you wake up feeling more rested in the morning.
♠ Poppy seeds
The poppy seeds that are commonly found in muffins and cookies can be beneficial for sufferers of sleep apnea. Poppyseeds may be prepared in food, ground into a paste, or brewed into a tea and taken about a half hour before bedtime.
Since poppy seeds come from the same plant whereby pharmacists derive opium and codeine, they have a very mild sedating effect that allows the body to calm down and enter sleep peacefully.
Some sleep apnea sufferers have found that the consumption of a couple teaspoons of poppy seeds before bed can be very beneficial in treating the condition.
♠ Scientific Evidence For Effects of Proper Diet on Sleep Apnea Symptoms
According to materials provided by European Lung Foundation, the researchers, from the University of Crete in Greece, examined 40 obese patients suffering from OSAS.
Twenty patients were given a prudent diet to follow, while the other 20 followed a Mediterranean diet. Both groups were also encouraged to increase their physical activity, mainly involving walking for at least 30 minutes each day.
In both groups, the patients also received continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy which involves wearing a mask that generates an air stream, keeping the upper airway open during sleep.
The researchers monitored the patients during a sleep study, known as polysomnography. This involved monitoring several markers for OSAS, including electrical activity in the brain, eye movements and snoring.
The patients were examined at the start of the study and again 6 months later.
The results showed that people following the Mediterranean diet had a reduced number of disturbances, known as apneas, during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, which usually accounts for approximately 25% of total sleep during the night.
The findings also revealed that people following the Mediterranean diet also showed a greater adherence to the calorie restricted diet, an increase in physical activity and a greater decrease in abdominal fat.
The results of this small sample did show an improvement during one stage of sleep for people with sleep apnea, however it did not show an overall improvement in severity of the condition.
The authors suggest that further studies in a larger sample are required to fully understand the benefits of this diet.
Christopher Papandreou, lead author for the research, said: "This is the first study examining the impact of the Mediterranean diet in combination with physical activity on OSAS via changes in the human body.
♠ Wrapping Up
Eating the right diet, for example, the Mediterranean Diet, combined with physical activity can not only help you get a better night's sleep and have a more restful waking time, but it can also significantly reduce your sleep apnea symptoms.
The right kind of diet also helps you reduce weight, which is one of the major contributing factors to sleep apnea.