Diet and Exercise in Controlling Sleep Apnea and PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are conditions that can reduce the quality of your sleep. The fatigue, irritability and poor concentration resulting from the resulting sleep deprivation have the potential to impact all aspects of your life.

Certain lifestyle changes may be recommended by your health provider to help control these conditions. Chief among these will be a balanced, nutritious diet and regular exercise, both of which can aid in controlling sleep apnea and PCOS.

What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

PCOS is a common condition that increases the risk of infertility in women. It is a hormonal disorder that leads to the presence of multiple cysts on the ovaries. Although the exact cause of this condition is not yet known, there are genetic and environmental contributing factors.

The condition is often marked by abnormal hormone levels, including high levels of insulin. Symptoms include irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, poor sleep, weight gain, excessive hair growth and oily skin.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and PCOS?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by frequent pauses in breathing while you sleep. The drop in oxygen levels causes the brain to prompt the body to wake for air. These arousals can be very brief, but in severe cases may happen over 30 times every hour. Without diagnosis, OSA increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. 

Women with PCOS are at increased risk of developing OSA. Those with OSA can experience an increase in the symptoms of PCOS. Poor sleep is a common theme. Sleeping is fragmented by the frequent awakenings for air associated with OSA. 

Women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome can find the quality of their rest affected by irregular periods, as well as the stress and anxiety caused by the condition.

Obesity and diabetes are two health issues that seem to link both conditions.

How Diet and Exercise Can Help Control Sleep Apnea and PCOS

Insulin resistance can be a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome. Without being able to properly use insulin the risk of developing diabetes increases. OSA sufferers are also at risk of insulin resistance from persistent oxygen deprivation caused by frequent cessations in breathing when asleep. 

Obesity is a major contributing factor in OSA. Excess levels of tissue in the throat are pulled down to block the airways when they become relaxed while you are sleeping. This causes the obstruction that prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs, prompting the brain to wake the body for air. 

Leading a fairly sedentary lifestyle combined with unhealthy eating habits increases the risk of polycystic ovary syndrome and can lead to weight gain. This weight gain may then increase the risk of developing OSA.

If you are diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea you will likely be advised to make some lifestyle changes. This will include a healthier diet and more regular exercise to help you lose weight. This helps control OSA by removing the excess tissues being pulled down and blocking your airways 

Exercise encourages sleep, and improved sleeping patterns will help sleep apnea and PCOS, including controlling the high blood sugar levels that increase the risk of diabetes. Rest is important in controlling the symptoms of OSA and PCOS, and addressing the symptoms of one can help control the symptoms of the other.

Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms of OSA. Sleeping disorders affect around 60 million Americans and often remain undiagnosed. OSA can be managed once diagnosed.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • frequent awakenings during the night
  • waking gasping for air
  • snoring
  • excessive daytime fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • dry mouth in the morning
  • morning headaches

If your health provider suspects OSA, they may arrange an at-home test or for you to attend a sleep study. Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) is a leading treatment for OSA and uses a device that delivers pressurized air through a mask worn overnight to keep the airways open and prevent breathing pauses.

For mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, a mouthguard might be recommended that lowers the jaw and tongue and keeps the airways free from obstruction. However, if weight is a contributing factor, changes to your diet and regular exercise will also be recommended.

Further Ways to Improve Quality Sleeping Time

As quality rest is beneficial for sleep apnea and PCOS, it is worthwhile looking at further ways that can help ensure a better night’s rest. These include:

  • improve your sleeping environment by ensuring the bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark with a comfortable mattress
  • remove screens from the bedroom and avoid using them for an hour before going to bed
  • avoid caffeine after the early afternoon
  • avoid heavy meals or snacks in the lead-up to bedtime
  • develop a consistent nighttime routine, including going to bed and getting up at the same time each day to aid the sleep/wake cycle
  • engage in a relaxing activity such as reading or meditation before bed
  • drink a chamomile tea or warm milk before bed
  • resist the temptation of an alcoholic drink later in the evening
  • try to avoid a daytime nap as this can affect your sleeping pattern and make falling asleep more difficult at night

Final Thoughts

Sleep plays a pivotal role in our overall health, acting as a restorative tool to repair the body and mind. OSA and PCOS are health conditions that negatively impact our important rest. Healthy eating habits and consistent exercise promote better sleeping habits to help control sleep apnea and PCOS symptoms.

Sleeping disorders like OSA can worsen the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome. In turn, PCOS can lead to sleeping problems and increase the risk of OSA. Therefore, addressing the quality of your sleeping can help manage both conditions.