Sleep apnea is a common condition that presents itself with episodes in which sufferers stop breathing during sleep, awake gasping for air, experience extreme daytime fatigue — and snore. Indeed, loud snoring is one the key indicators of this sleep disorder. But other than wearing a cumbersome CPAP machine — a.k.a. a breathing device — while you sleep, what can be done to help prevent snoring? As it turns out, your diet can play a role in sleep apnea. We talked to our expert to learn how.
Q: I was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea and my doctor said changing my diet might help. What kinds of food should I be eating?
A: Surprisingly, diet does play a role in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that temporarily halts breathing during sleep, lowering sleep quality and raising the risk of potentially dangerous health conditions. One study published in The Nature and Science of Sleep found that people who consumed one or more fruits a day lowered their risk of developing OSA by 26 percent, while eating fried foods significantly increased the risk. Additional research shows that ultra-processed foods — like prepared baked goods, flavored potato chips, and soft drinks — may be the worst kind for sleep apnea.
That’s why we recommend limiting your intake of processed foods and filling up on fruit, vegetables, olive oil, poultry, seafood, eggs, and herbs instead. A study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open found that making these healthier food choices (in addition to aerobic exercise and a cessation of alcohol and smoking) helped study subjects reduce their number of hourly apnea episodes by 51 percent after two months. (As obesity is a major risk factor for OSA, weight loss following any healthy nutritional changes made to your diet can also help.)
Meet our experts
Nutrition experts Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, are leading authorities on nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. They are also the bestselling authors of Rebuild Your Bones: The 12-Week Osteoporosis Protocol (Buy from Amazon, $22.99). To ask them a question, send an email to [email protected].
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.