For whatever reason, it’s been a really long week. In order to make it to the end of Friday afternoon, you down two cups of coffee in the morning. Once you’ve made it through the day, you celebrate with some greasy comfort food and one or two beers with friends — and find it really hard to fall and stay asleep that night, waking up on Saturday morning feeling not as fresh as you thought you might. What happened?
The truth is, there is a lot that goes into getting quality sleep. We often think it’s as simple as going to bed at a decent time or not drinking a Red Bull the hour before hitting the hay, but consistently achieving a good night’s rest has a lot of variables — a key one being nutrition.
Particularly for those undergoing sleep apnea treatment with an oral appliance or CPAP, a sleep disorder makes proper sleep hygiene complex and multifactorial. For undiagnosed sleep apnea sufferers who are not receiving treatment, symptoms can be drastically worsened by poor nutrition and dietary habits. While there’s no magic bullet for getting a good night’s rest, these tips will help in promoting better sleep quality.
A little caffeine in the AM is great for giving you a boost, but it can make it much more difficult for you to fall asleep if you have it too late in the day. People with untreated sleep apnea may even be tempted to overdo it on the caffeine if they have a bad night’s sleep — but caffeine takes between 4-6 hours to be completely eliminated from the body, meaning that an afternoon cup of joe can make it much harder to fall asleep at night. For quality sleep, caffeine consumption should stop by noon. That way, by the time you lay down, your body will have a better chance of quickly easing into sleep.
By far, the number one preventable cause of obstructive sleep apnea is obesity, which affects nearly 40% of adults in the United States, according to recent reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fatty tissue around the neck and throat as a result of obesity makes it more likely for the airway to collapse and become blocked during sleep, potentially leading to and worsening sleep apnea symptoms.
Regularly exercising, controlling intake of sugar and carbohydrates, drinking lots of water, and keeping portion control in check can help you maintain a healthy weight, but it must be said that there are also several health conditions that can affect weight gain. If you believe weight gain could be due to factors other than lifestyle habits, talk to a trusted physician to determine the root cause.
Keeping Alcohol Consumption in Check
Plenty of people enjoy going to happy hour with their friends or having a glass of wine in the evening, but according to a study published in the scientific journal Sleep Medicine, limiting alcohol consumption may have potential therapeutic and preventative value for those with sleep apnea.
Why is this the case? Alcohol acts as a sedative, reducing the nervous system’s ability to feel and react to stimuli. While this effect can help you physically relax and fall asleep faster, it also increases the likelihood that the muscles in the throat will over relax and block the airway, cutting off breathing. This is why, even for people without sleep apnea, drinking alcohol too close to bedtime is known to increase snoring.
If you’re going to drink, avoid doing so within the hour or so before bed, and if possible, drink with your dinner because the food will inhibit the effect of the alcohol a bit. Keep in mind to never overdo it — space your drinks out throughout the night. Taking these steps towards healthier alcohol consumption will allow you to unwind without negatively impacting your sleep.
Following a diet that’s good for sleep is to follow a diet that’s good for your health overall, and nutrition is something sleep apnea sufferers should certainly pay attention to as it can help tip the scales towards better quality rest.
If you’ve been checking out this blog and are not currently undergoing sleep apnea treatment, but think there’s a chance you have the disorder, you can contact our office for a free consultation. Working together, we can figure out the root cause of your sleep issues and put you on the path to better sleep.