Sleep apnea patients are often on the lookout for ways to improve their condition and quality of sleep. Sleep apnea causes the sufferer to stop breathing several times throughout the night, greatly impacting the amount and quality of sleep obtained. Patients diagnosed with sleep apnea can make lifestyle choices in addition to their treatment plan in order to help reduce or eliminate their symptoms completely. These lifestyle choices can include changes to diet as well.
At the Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Bethesda, Maryland we treat sleep apnea patients. We help them seek relief and obtain restful nights of slumber from this horrible disorder. Our staff creates a specialized treatment plan for each patient. We also recommend a list of foods that promotes a healthy nights rest. However, many people don’t realize that there are foods that can impair your ability to sleep well. These foods can actually worsen your sleep apnea. We hope, by sharing this list with you, we can help you regain control over your disorder and sleep better.
If you’re one of the 18 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea you may want to consider cutting back on these foods. Sleep apnea not only impacts your sleep quality, but it also puts you at a greater risk for heart attack, stroke, heart disease, and heart failure. Many of our patients want to take charge of their health by getting the disorder under control. Some foods can aggravate or worsen your condition.
Bananas, while a great source of nutrients, are known to increase mucus production. This means that they can worsen breathing problems suffered by those with sleep apnea. If you’ve been diagnosed with the sleeping disorder it’s a good idea to cut bananas out of your diet for at least two weeks. This will allow you to determine if they are contributing to your symptoms. If you or your partner notices an improvement in night time breathing, you may want to completely eliminate bananas from your diet. It is important to note that over-ripe bananas tend to cause more breathing problems than less-ripe, firmer bananas. So if you must continue to have them in your diet it is better to choose bananas that are slightly green or have just turned yellow. Avoid any bananas with dark aging spots as they will aggravate your condition.
Dairy products which are high in fat such as whole milk, cheeses, and heavy cream also increase mucus production. These types of foods can also contribute to other health risks like heart disease due to their abundance of saturated fat. Studies have shown improvement in patients who suffer from this sleeping disorder, eating a calorie controlled diet which limits dairy and other saturated fat. This study shows a positive correlation between avoiding high-fat products and overall health in sleep apnea patients.
When following a diet that limits high-fat dairy and saturated fat, patients showed significant weight loss. This corresponds directly with an improved quality of life. The weight loss in addition to the lack of mucus causing foods greatly improves sleep apnea symptoms as well. Their overall health improved greatly in addition to the decrease of sleeping disorder symptoms.
Similar to high fat dairy, high fat meat also contains high amounts of saturated fat. Not only can this lead to weight gain and increased apnea symptoms, but it also contributes to cardiovascular disease. For patients who suffer from sleep apnea or patients who are overweight, replacing these high fat meats can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Healthier alternatives include cold water fish like salmon. Salmon will improve the health of your heart, reduce inflammation, and help you consume less saturated fat.
Meat options that should be avoided due to their high level of fat include bacon, porterhouse steak, top sirloin steak, pork chops, sausage, spareribs, bratwursts, deli mat, and lamb. It’s always a good idea to also avoid fast food breakfast sandwiches, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, and hot dogs. All of these meats can worsen your apnea symptoms as well as cause increased weight gain.
Another food group to avoid if you suffer from sleep apnea is the refined carbohydrates group. These foods are high in added sugar or enriched flour. Unlike their complex counterparts, refined carbohydrates mostly consist of empty calories and are of no real benefit to your diet. Due to their low nutritional value they also are less satisfying to your body and can cause blood sugar problems. All of these things contribute to weight gain and worsen sleep apnea symptoms. If at all possible, you should avoid all refined carbohydrates. These include snack foods, soft drinks, candy, bakery goods, and anything that is overly sweetened. A good rule of thumb when purchasing items is to look at the ingredient label. You want to choose foods that list whole grains instead of “enriched” flours or grains.
By making these small adjustments to your diet you will likely experience a decrease in your sleep apnea symptoms. Cutting these types of foods out for more nutritional options will also improve your overall health and help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.