Can My Diet Help With Sleep Apnea? Ask a Nutritionist. January 17, 2023

Diagnosed with sleep apnea? Changing your diet can help.

Sleep apnea is a common cause of not getting a good night sleep. It happens when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. This action blocks your airway when you are sleeping and you stop breathing. It can last for over 10 seconds and several times a night. Sleep apnea can cause snoring, have you gasping for breath, and wake you up as you try to get more air.

Sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure, increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Obesity can lead to sleep apnea because too much tissue in your throat and mouth can block your airway while sleeping.

The good news is that changing your diet, exercise, and stopping smoking can reduce sleep apnea, even if you don’t lose weight. Research has shown that choosing more healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, olive oil, seafood, poultry, eggs and herbs can reduce sleep apnea. Avoiding processed foods, processed meats, salty and sugary snacks and beverages and reducing alcohol in the evening can help too. Stopping smoking and being more physically active, like walking more each day can reduce sleep apnea. These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of dying from a stroke or heart disease as well as help you lose weight. But even without any weight loss, these lifestyle changes can lead to a better night’s sleep.

If you think you have sleep apnea, be sure to let your doctor know so you can be tested. And remember, these lifestyle changes are good for your overall health no matter what your current health status.

Joanne M. Gallivan, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She served as the Director of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in the Office of Communication and Public Liaison for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1997-2016.  Previously, Ms. Gallivan has served as project manager for NIDDK’s Weight-Control Information Network (WIN), a national source of information on weight control, obesity, and weight-related nutritional disorders for health professionals and the public; as Contract Manager for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program and Obesity Education Initiative, and as Director of the Prince George’s County Health Department Nutrition Division located in Maryland.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, providing free, ongoing medical care for uninsured adults who Reside or Work across the Barrier Islands and their connecting communities. You can sign up for our monthly e-news updates, or follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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