The term apnea is derived from Greek, meaning cessation of breathing. Sleep apnea is defined as intermittent cessation of airflow at the nose and mouth which lasts for at least 10 seconds during sleep. Most patients have apnea for 20 to 30 seconds but it may even last longer. Majority of patients suffering from this disorder are found to be obese.
According to a data, at least 12 million Americans are suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea if not treated can lead to hypertension, stroke and heart attacks, therefore addressing the condition at the earliest helps to reduce the risk of these life threatening conditions.
As we sleep the muscles of body relaxes. It also includes the muscles of throat which are tense when we are awake. When the air passage becomes narrow due to various causes such as nasal obstruction from deviated nasal septum, enlarged adenoids, backward collapse of tongue, inflammation of throat caused due to acid reflux, then the airflow gets restricted or patient feels asphyxiated for few seconds. The brain senses it to be critical and patient arises briefly from sleep, whereupon the airway patency is restored and airflow resumes. The patient then returns to sleep and the sequence of events is repeated many times in the night.
What Foods Contribute To Sleep Apnea Problems?
Certain foods are found to increase the problem of sleep apnea, therefore reducing their intake may help to reduce the condition to an extent. Persons suffering from this disorder should avoid these foods. Foods that increase mucus in throat and nose should therefore be avoided.
- Bananas: Though banana has good nutrient value, it is also one of the foods to produce more mucus. With excess of mucus in air passage, breathing becomes difficult and for a person who is suffering from sleep apnea the condition even becomes worse.
- Cheese, butter and high amount of fat containing dairy products also trigger increased production of mucus. Also these products are known to increase the amount of fat in your body and hence obesity. Avoiding such products may help to reduce weight as well as formation of excess of mucus both of which are potential risk factors for exacerbating sleep apnea symptoms.
- Refined sugar, cakes and pastries only add up your calories and weight, without any nutritious value to your body. Avoid them if you are suffering from sleep apnea.
- Eating heavy meal at night or eating excessive spicy food can lead to acid reflux, which is one of the causes to worsen sleep apnea problem. Avoid eating heavy meal at night. Eat less spicy and caffeinated products.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is known to relax the muscles. It makes the condition more vulnerable for the patient suffering from sleep apnea.
- Avoiding smoking and sleeping on one side also helps to reduce sleep apnea problem.
Foods That Help Reduce Sleep Apnea
There are various ways to treat sleep apnea and it includes breathing machines, medications, changes in lifestyle, losing weight. Some foods that help to manage weight reduction also help to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Vegetables and fruits contain vitamins and minerals. Besides, they are full of fiber, low in calorie and both are essential for reducing weight. Fibers makes your stomach full easily and there is less satiety. Avoiding some fruits such as banana which produces more mucus, you can eat other fruits that are rich in fiber. Especially the colored fruits such as strawberry, raspberry, oranges, apples, kiwi fruit, are valuable as they also contain antioxidants. In vegetable category, Brussels sprout, broccoli, cabbage, artichokes, dark green leafy vegetables, spinach are beneficial.
Eat dairy products with low amount of fat. These products are rich in minerals such as calcium and vitamin D; both are essential for health and give a feeling of fullness as they also contain protein. Drink skim milk, yogurt with low fat, etc.
Olive oil and canola oil are healthy because they contain unsaturated fats. Use these oils while preparing food as they reduce the risk of obesity as well as high cholesterol level in blood. Sunflower oil and flax seed oil are other alternatives that may prove beneficial in reducing weight and so concurrently sleep apnea.