There are a multitude of effects that our daily lives have on sleep apnea. Exercise, smoking, drinking, and stress are just a few aspects of life that positively or negatively affect sleep apnea.
Eating habits also have an enormous affect on sleep apnea. Eating the wrong foods day-in and day-out will create a deadly cycle of despair. Naturally, we all remember what our doctors and dentists preach about eating healthy; but we forget that sleep is significantly influenced by our diets.
Sleep Apnea Diet: Do’s
Whole grains: Whole grains are high in nutrients and fibers, which curbs your hunger for a longer amount of time. Breads and cereals have a wide variety of whole grain options, and you can opt for wild or brown rice, pearled barley, and old-fashioned oats.
Low-fat dairy products: Full of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, low-fat dairy also helps you feel fuller, longer. Again, these foods will help promote healthy weight management, also aiding your sleep apnea management.
Fruits and vegetables: Rich in nutrients and fibers, and low on calories. fruits and vegetables are ideal substitutes for cookies and candy. Additionally, fiber promotes a longer feeling of fullness. The longer you feel full, the less likely you are to overeat. This is especially crucial, as most sleep apnea sufferers tend to be overweight. However, bananas may be an exception. (Explanation later on)
Plant-based oils: Overweight sleep apnea sufferers can also benefit from unsaturated fats in plant-based oils. They are a great substitute for saturated fats in butter and margarine. Oils from canola, olives, safflowers, sunflowers, flaxseeds, and of course vegetables mean a wide variety of options.
Sleep Apnea Diet: Dont’s
Bananas: While most fruits are great for improving sleep apnea symptoms, bananas are an exception. They actually increase mucus production, which makes breathing worse while you sleep. Obviously, I’m not saying you cant eat bananas, just recommending you do so earlier in the day.
High-fat meats: Let’s be honest, we all love our pork and beef. There’s nothing better than a juicy steak for dinner. However, these delicious items need to be eaten sparingly if you want the best chance of controlling your diet. The same goes for fried chicken and fish. When they are NOT fried, chicken and fish can be extremely beneficial.
Refined carbs: These foods are why whole grain options are a better choice. Refined carbohydrates contain a high amount of added sugar. Their likelihood of contributing to weight gain is higher, and will increase the risk of sleep apnea symptoms.
High-fat dairy: High-fat dairy is worse than low-fat dairy. The reason is simple: they are higher in fat! Since sleep apnea and obesity are directly related, it will benefit you to cut out heavy cream, whole milk, cheddar cheese, butter, etc.
Healthy Food Replacement Options
Replace Sour Cream with Greek Yogurt: You wont be able to tell the difference in your tacos or baked potatoes. Just be sure to get the plain yogurt and not the flavored.
Replace Potato Chips with Popcorn: Snacks are important to everyone. You can eat 4.5 cups of popcorn and still not reach the calorie count from one serving of chips.
Replace Croutons with Almonds: A little crunch to your salad is nice, why not accomplish that with the healthier almond option, rather than croutons.
Replace Breadcrumbs with Chia Seeds: This is a great substitute in recipes like meatloaf and meatballs. They also work wonderfully as breading for oven-baked or air-fried meats.
Replace Iceberg Lettuce with Romaine Lettuce: Lettuce is healthy anyway, but romaine is just that much better than iceberg. Plus it tastes better. (In my opinion)
Replace Milk Chocolate with Cocoa: Milk chocolate is processed and has added sugar. Natural cocoa will add that wonderful chocolate flavor without the extra sugar.
Replace Creamy Dressings with Olive Oil & Vinegar: Dressings can ruin the “health-factor” of a salad. Try to stick to olive oil based dressings; tasty, and healthier.
Replace Sugary Sodas with Tea: Sugary sodas can rot your teeth and grow your waistline. Tea and green tea are delicious, healthy substitutes.
Replace Fruit Drinks with Fruit-Infused Water: Fruit drink may sound healthy, but many of them have added sugar. Try to stick with infused water instead of SunnyD.
Jason Smith is recognized by the board of polysomnographic technologists (BRPT) as a registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT) since 2003. He is also Director of Clinical Operations for 6 multi-state sleep diagnostic facilities including the nation’s largest 20 bed sleep disorder testing center. Jason has also been a Co-Author with two research publications featured in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.