Who’s Down with O.S.A? (yea you know me…)

Sleep Apnea is serious sleep disorder where your breathing stops and starts repeatedly while you sleep. Signs that you may have it include snoring loudly and feeling tired after a full night’s sleep. Sleep apnea comes in three major forms. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Central Sleep Apnea, and Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea, and what I believe I have. In OSA the normal flow of air stops because the airway space in the area of the throat is too narrow. Your throat muscles can be too relaxed causing the passageway to become narrowed, or something could simply be blocking it. During this, the diaphragm and chest muscles are working much harder to open your airway and pull air into your lungs. I can tell you from experience that when this starts to happen you will kick start your breathing again. Often with a loud snort, gasp or your body jerks. I can best describe it as when you fall asleep and dream that you are falling, but right before you hit the ground your body jerks violently and you wake up. What’s worst is when that narrowed passageway doesn’t open right away. So even when you wake up, you can still struggle to breath and feel like you are choking.

Untreated, it can cause health issues like hypertension, heart disease, stokes and diabetes. OSA causes decreased oxygen supply to the brain and other parts of the body. If you been around me long enough, you can tell that it causes horrible sleeping patterns. No matter what time I go to bed it feels like I’ve slept for only 2-3 hours.

Here’s a list of the warning signs of Sleep Apnea:

  • Dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Trouble concentrating
  •  Night sweats
  • Low sex drive
  • Snoring
  • Waking up suddenly and feeling like you are choking/gasping
  •  High Blood Pressure
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Waking up in the middle of the night to pee often.

Food and Sleep Apnea

These foods can play a role in your sleep apnea.

ALCOHOL

One thing that I have been improving on, is how late I eat and drink at night. Especially with the high probability of me having OSA. First off Alcohol is number one on the list of things not to mix with OSA. Now You ALL know I like to indulge in a cocktail or several from time to time. However, alcohol right before bed, especially for me is a no-no. Having that cocktail right before bed makes it that much easier for the muscles in your mouth and throat to relax and block your away. My rule is to make sure I have my last drink at least 2-4 hours before I plan to go to bed. Alcohol can also keep you from having deep restful sleep.

SPICY FOOD

Also try to avoid and spicy foods that can cause acid reflux. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is one of the warning signs of OSA. Chronic acid reflux can lead to your esophagus becoming damaged, in turn cause scar tissue to form. The newly formed scar tissue narrows the pathway where you swallow food and breath. You guys know I am stubborn, I enjoy my spicy foods, my hot sauce and my chips and hot salsa. They’ve all cause me to have bad acid reflux. I can only imagine how much damage this alone has caused my airway. Many nights I have jumped out of my sleep because I could feel food or liquid coming up. Any type of spicy and acidic food especially right before bed is something we need to stay away from.

DIARY

I know you all and reading this and are like, “damn what else is wrong with him?” Add Lactose Intolerant to that list. Now this one hurts my heart because most of my favorite foods include cheese. Tacos, pizza, baked ziti, etc. I love them all. They all are a big no-no for me. Any high fat diary product can increase your body’s mucus production in the mouth and throat. This can worsen the breathing problems that come with sleep apnea. That is evident if you heard how I sound after I go on a week or two of cheese heavy foods. Do not judge me, I am getting better at this. Its hard enough trying to sleep when you have a cold and tying to cough up phlegm but added an even narrower breathing pathway and you are asking for trouble.

Food allergies are triggered by the body’s immune reaction to foods > > Inflammation results and tissues swell > > increase in mucus production >> The inflammation and swelling in the tissue block the airway which cuts off the flow of oxygen to the brain >> the body tells the brain to wake up. The sudden jolt often leaves the person gasping for air.

More mucous = more apneas as you sleep.

From what I have come across there are not many studies that prove that certain foods will help those living with sleep apnea. However, there are many foods that can help promote a good night’s sleep:

 “Melatonin”

Melatonin rich foods are the way to go. Melatonin is a hormone in your body that plays a role in sleep. The production and release of melatonin in the brain is connected to time of day, increasing when it is dark and decreasing when it is light. Melatonin production declines with age.

 It can be found naturally in fruits and vegetables like tart cherries, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, pomegranate, olives, grapes, broccoli, and cucumbers. Certain grains like rice, barley, and rolled oats. Also, it is found in nuts and seeds like peanuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds and flax seeds.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is one of the many amino acids found in protein.  In the body, it can be turned into the neurotransmitter serotonin which is then used to make melatonin. In studies, dietary tryptophan intake has been linked to sleep duration and tryptophan supplementation has been found to improve sleep. Milk is a good source on this, which is not good for me personally, but I get now why a lot of people will indulge in  glass of milk before bed or when they wake up in the middle of the night. Fruits and vegetables like apples, peaches, avocado (highly overrated but that is a story for another day), spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, asparagus, and onions. Chicken, seafood and many nuts also have tryptophan that occur naturally in them.

“Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral used by the body for many biochemical reactions and supports biological functions like the immune system.  It is also important for sleep and acts as a natural relaxant to help deactivate adrenaline.  You can find this naturally in fish, avocados (rolls eyes), bananas, leafy greens, soybeans, whole grains, and nuts/seeds.

Doing the research on sleep apnea was fun, but also terrifying. I have been ignoring this problem for years. I guess ignorance was bliss, but this is something that absolutely needs to be taken seriously. One common thread I have taken away is that inflammation plays a big role in sleep apnea. People with obstructive sleep apnea, the most common sleep apnea type, have upper airway and systemic inflammation. I would probably fall under upper airway inflammation. Now again, I have not been to the doctor yet, so this is me just taking my que from the articles and checklist’s I have found. Avoid foods like sugary drinks, snacks, and desserts. Refined carbs (white bread, white pasta), processed meats/foods, trans fats, and excessive alcohol. All these things can prolong inflammation in your body, which is not good for your health. Hopefully, I left you guys with somethings to think about before your next checkup. Until next time guys, stay healthy and safe out there!

P.S. Here is a link to a questionnaire that a local dental office uses to screen patients for OSA. Give it a shot. OSA Questionnaire