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How Diet Changes Can Improve Sleep Apnea

How Diet Changes Can Improve Sleep Apnea

When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea, there are several factors that can have a direct impact on the severity of this condition. But new research shows that one of the biggest influencers could be your diet and other healthy lifestyle choices — even when they don’t necessarily lead to weight loss.

Here is a closer look at what this means for you and your efforts to manage obstructive sleep apnea.

New Research on Basic Lifestyle Interventions and Sleep Apnea

person holding silver fork and knife

A recent study in Spain took overweight and obese men who suffered from sleep apnea, and had one group undergo some simple lifestyle interventions. This included eating more fruits, vegetables, poultry, and other whole foods, while avoiding processed foods and meats, sugary drinks, and salty snacks. The goal wasn’t restricting calories, but instead, focusing on eating healthy foods, while also reducing alcohol consumption and increasing daily steps.

The results of the study were striking. After eight weeks, the group that underwent these basic lifestyle changes reduced their number of sleep apnea episodes by 51 percent, and 15 percent experienced complete remission of sleep apnea. Participants also lost 16 pounds on average.

Even more noteworthy, after six months, the individuals who had undergone these basic lifestyle changes had maintained the weight loss and reduced their blood pressure, while 30 percent had experienced remission of their sleep apnea.

On the other hand, the control group that didn’t make any changes did not experience any of these benefits.

This is hardly the first study to find links between improved diet and reduced severity of sleep apnea. Both the Mediterranean diet and paleo diet have been found to improve sleep apnea for both men and women. Even study participants who didn’t lose weight were able to reduce the severity of their sleep apnea.

Why Diet Matters

sliced lemon on white plastic container

What is most interesting about these studies is that the benefits came even when participants didn’t lose much weight. Of course, improvements to diet and exercise habits can also lead to weight loss, as experienced by some participants in these studies.

This is important because obesity is believed to be a leading risk factor for developing obstructive sleep apnea. Excess fatty tissue, particularly around the neck, can cause the airways to collapse during sleep. When this happens, the flow of oxygen is blocked off, causing the person to awaken to restart breathing again. Such sleep interruptions can occur dozens of times per hour throughout the night.

A diet high in processed foods can also result in inflammation. Sleep apnea is believed to be tied to chronically high inflammation. However, a healthy diet can reduce the presence of inflammatory substances in the body — many of which are introduced by eating unhealthy, processed foods. This could be why many study participants were able to reduce the severity of their sleep apnea with dietary changes, even when they didn’t experience weight loss.

By reducing inflammation and potentially helping to aid weight loss efforts, a healthy diet can have implications well beyond sleep apnea. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other serious ailments that can lower one’s quality of life.

The Importance of CPAP Therapy

While diet and lifestyle changes were able to help some people in the study experience a complete remission of their sleep apnea, it is important to remember that this was the exception, rather than the rule. While an improved diet can greatly improve your sleep apnea and reduce the need for CPAP therapy, this isn’t something you can determine on your own.

For most people, the best course of action will be to implement healthy diet and lifestyle changes with the help of their physician, and then continually monitor how these changes are impacting the severity of their sleep apnea. You should consult with the sleep specialist who prescribed your CPAP machine to determine if you should adjust the settings on your device, or if you are able to discontinue its use.

Even for individuals with relatively mild sleep apnea, a CPAP machine can play a vital role in preventing interruptions to sleep during the night. As such, it isn’t something you should just quit because you’ve noticed improvements due to a healthier diet. Even mild sleep apnea can leave you feeling fatigued and irritable in the morning, and more prone to long-term side effects like type 2 diabetes and resistant hypertension.

By providing a steady flow of pressurized air throughout the night, your CPAP machine will help you keep sleep apnea in check until you have reached a point where your condition is in remission thanks to your lifestyle changes.

Get the Help You Need For Managing Sleep Apnea

There is no denying that undertaking a few key healthy habits can go a long way in improving your physical well-being and reducing the severity of your sleep apnea — even if you’ll still need the help of a CPAP machine. Of course, purchasing a CPAP machine to manage your obstructive sleep apnea can be quite costly, particularly if you don’t have health insurance.

This is where No Insurance Medical Supplies can help. With a wide range of CPAP machines and supplies available at discounted prices, we make it easy to get the equipment you need at a price you can afford. Free shipping on all orders $99 and up and available interest-free financing can help make your CPAP purchase even more affordable, so you can enjoy quality sleep.


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