Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a sleeping disorder in which breathing becomes irregular, disrupted and even briefly stops multiple times during the night.
While most people require an oral device or a CPAP (continuous positive airways pressure) machine during sleep, lifestyle can also help improve the medical condition.
Antioxidant and dietary supplements may be helpful in bolstering health and improving sleep, research shows.
Lifestyle and Sleeping Changes
Achieving a proper weight and keeping relatively fit can be of tremendous benefit in fighting, or even preventing, obstructive sleep apnea.
Simple changes to everyday activities and habits are easy to achieve with a little willpower and the most effective changes include:
- Losing excess weight
- Following a proper, balanced and healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting the intake of alcohol and caffeine
- Quitting smoking or using tobacco products
Also, many people see a dramatic improvement by making simple changes to the way they sleep. Lowering the temperature in the bedroom, using lightweight, breathable sheets and pillows and side-sleeping have all proven to be very successful in many sleep apnea cases.
Incorporating antioxidants, vitamins and other supplements in a balanced diet is not just good for overall health but can also be of benefit to OSA sufferers. Some of the most effective of these are:
NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is a form of cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid. This is an antioxidant that research shows helps reduce OSA symptoms.
Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health and helps strengthen the body's immune system. A deficiency in vitamin D can cause mood swings and also disrupt normal sleeping patterns.
Vitamin B helps reduce amino acid levels which is beneficial to heart health.
Vitamin E protects the body's cells and is important to cell health as well as the immune system. The antioxidant effects of vitamin E can also help improve sleep quality.
Vitamin C is strongly associated with the immune system and helps create collagen which is crucial to healthy skin, bones and teeth. It has also been proven to reduce the effects of OSA whether on its own or in conjunction with other vitamins and antioxidants.
Vitamin B6 is important for the production of serotonin and melatonin and a lack of these hormones has been known to cause mood swings, depression, disrupted sleep and even insomnia.
Vitamin B12 influences brain function as well as the production of red blood cells. Studies have shown that vitamin B12 can also play a role in regulating sleeping patterns and a lack of the vitamin has been linked with cases of insomnia and OSA.
CoQ10 (co-enzyme Q10) is another antioxidant and is of particular benefit to the cardiovascular system and heart health.
Omega-3 has a number of recognized anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits.
Probiotics have proven effective in helping control OSA. Sleep apnea has been linked to critical changes in the gut microbiome (bacteria), and probiotics can help restore the natural balance which, in turn, leads to better overall physical health.
Natural and Best
Although dietary supplements and vitamins can be purchased in health stores, they can be expensive and a natural source is often the best. Specific antioxidant supplements may have to be bought over the counter but vitamins occur naturally in many everyday foods.
Vitamin D. More correctly a hormone and not a vitamin, the best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D can also be found in fish oil, fatty fish, egg yolk, dairy produce and natural juices.
Vitamin E. Nuts and seeds such as peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are all high in vitamin E as are tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, corn, as well as soybean and wheat germ oils.
Vitamin C. All citrus fruits contain varying amounts of vitamin C as do vegetables like broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, kale and red and green chilies. Strawberries and kiwi fruit are also good sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin B6. This vitamin can be found in a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and dairy products including milk, cheese, eggs, spinach, potatoes, bananas, fish and whole grain products.
Vitamin B12. Meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy products are the main sources of vitamin B12.
While it can be more convenient to purchase vitamin and dietary supplements, nutritionists agree -- it’s best to get these nutrients from natural sources.
As is the case with many things in life, excessive use is not good.
This is especially true with vitamin B6, where excessive amounts can cause insomnia and even prove fatal in extreme (but isolated) cases.
Get Professional Help
Although changes in lifestyle and diet may relieve, or even eliminate, the effects of OSA there are no guarantees that this will always be the case.
Undertaking a new exercise regimen, starting a diet or taking new vitamins and supplements should not be done without seeking professional guidance by a doctor, fitness expert or dietitian as attempting too much, too soon, can have adverse consequences.
Similarly, it’s important to discuss your sleep apnea symptoms with a medical specialist.
CPAP devices and other OSA treatments are only available on prescription to patients who have undergone testing by a recognized sleep therapist or doctor.
If disrupted sleep and loud snoring are affecting you, talk to a medical professional. Get the testing and treatment you need – and bolster your therapy with lifestyle changes and antioxidant supplements.
Your overall health is at stake, as untreated sleep apnea leads to serious medical problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke. You can offset all these risks simply by getting the treatment – and making lifestyle changes – the experts suggest.