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Food and OSA: How diet affects your sleep apnea

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - CPAP therapy tips
The connection between food and OSA

Sleep, much like eating, is an essential part of life. Poor sleep can influence food choices and trigger cravings. In fact, studies demonstrate that people who sleep less tend to have irregular eating habits, such as: consuming more, eating higher-calorie foods (like fats or refined carbohydrates), as well as fewer fruits and vegetables.

We know that sleep may affect our food cravings, but can our food choices impact our quality of sleep?

Last January, we looked at the relationship between CPAP treatment and weight loss. March is nutrition month, so in keeping with this theme, here are some ideas and resources for improved nutrition that can help you get ready for spring.

Eating healthy to improve sleep apnea

Can a better diet cure sleep apnea?

Despite growing research around sleep, we still don’t truly know how our food choices affect our sleep. However, most doctors agree that the right nutrients have a positive effect on our sleep quality.

Eating the right combination of foods before going to sleep and which foods to avoid in the evening may be beneficial in enhancing sleep.

There is limited clinical evidence to support traditional sleep-promoting foods, but some people have reported certain foods help them sleep better.

While we do not recommend taking extra food or fluids before bedtime as eating adds calories and fluids may cause nocturnal awakenings to urinate, this list may help you:

  • One such example is milk, which contains several nutrients with touted sleep-promoting properties.  Though milk and serving temperature are not likely to influence sleep onset, warm milk may have psychological significance.
  • Eating foods such as salmon, eggs, nuts, seeds, and cheese, which are higher in Tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter best known for inducing feelings of calmness and drowsiness, and melatonin is one of our main sleep-inducing brain chemicals, which also helps synchronize the circadian rhythm.
  • Foods such as whole grains, meats, green leafy vegetables and legumes contain group B vitamins, which are required in the synthesis of serotonin and may help improve your quality of sleep. (While bearing in mind that other studies have found that certain vitamin combinations can promote insomnia).

What we do know about food and sleep

The bottom line is that while research around how food affects sleep is growing we still have a lot to learn. Different people and ethnicities experience foods very differently, and it is important to pay attention to how the foods that we eat impact us and make us feel.

So what is the take-home message? Consult with your healthcare professional before beginning any new regimen for your sleep.  As always, a balanced and varied diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein sources can help to improve your overall health and may help you sleep better.

Canada’s new Food Guide promotes healthy eating with great tips and recipe ideas for improving your diet and sleep!