Sleep Apnea & Your Diet

February 26, 2024

More than 22 million adults in the US have sleep apnea, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your breathing temporarily stops or gets shallow. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This type of apnea occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include chronic snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is found in people of any age including young children, but is most common in adults over the age of 40 years old, and more commonly in men. Other risk factors for sleep apnea include: a small upper airway, obesity, recessed chin, large neck, and tobacco & alcohol use.

New research has found that a diet of high-fat and high-protein may worsen sleep apnea, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. The drop in oxygen during sleep may lead to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

The good news is most sleep disorders are preventable or treatable. Start by adjusting your diet for lower fat items and less protein. This change will create a better balance of food intake, as well as likely produce weight loss, both key factors in lessening the effects of sleep apnea. The most common form of treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep. Additionally, there are oral appliances to help keep the airway open.

We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our health and well-being. Good quality and restorative sleep are essential for day-to-day functioning. Studies suggest that sleep quality rather than quantity has a greater impact on the quality of life and daytime functioning. This reason is why it is so important to address sleeping disorders and get treatment if needed to ensure your sleep time is the best it can be.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk to your medical provider about scheduling a sleep study at the Onamia campus of Mille Lacs Health System.