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Is the Mediterranean Diet the Key to Curing Sleep Apnea?

Updated on February 27, 2012

People suffering from sleep apnea have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Over time, this reduced volume and/or quality of sleep leads to a gradual decline in overall health.

Doctors agree that one way to improve the sleep apnea disorder is by eating a healthy diet and getting more exercise. Now one study has shown that a healthy Mediterranean diet coupled with exercise could actually work.

The study was conducted on two groups of patients over a six month period, one fed a ‘mediterranean diet.’ and the other a regular, healthy diet (described as ‘prudent.’)

In addition to the dietary adjustment, participants were encouraged to do at least 30 minutes of walking every day. After six months the Mediterranean diet group reported fewer sleep disturbances than the other group.

Keys to Study

Doctors’ sleep apnea treatment plans include reducing bodyweight, as the (obstructive) condition is exacerbated by being obese or overweight. If participants increased their daily exercise and lost weight, this should have contributed to an improved condition; but in both groups.

The participants were also given a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure mask. Despite these similarities, the group on the mediterranean diet was shown to have fewer REM sleep disturbances, which accounts for as much as 25 percent of total sleep.

The Mediterranean Diet

Assuming this special diet was the cause of reducing patient’s sleep apnea disturbances what exactly does it consist of?

Fortunately, Mediterranean food is full of flavor and nutrients, and is a healthy way to eat no matter who you are. It is heavy on vegetables, good fats, fresh fruit, legumes, nuts and whole grains.

At the same time, red meat and sweets are eaten sparingly; cheese, Greek yogurt and eggs somewhat more often.

Here are some common foods present in the Mediterranean diet:

-Olive oil.

-Greek yogurt/yogurt

-Artichokes, various greens, zucchini, potatoes, etc.

-Avocados, tomatoes, grapes, pomegranates, apples, apricots, etc.

-Seafood including oysters, salmon, mussels, tilapia, etc.

-Poultry including chicken, duck and fowl.

-Barley, buckwheat, couscous, millet, oats, breads

-Pork, lamb, beef and mutton in moderation

-Sweets such as baklava, biscotti, sorbet, etc., in moderation

-Nuts and seeds such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, tahini and so on.

-Plenty of water and wine in moderation.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is easy to see what a nutrition-packed menu this short list can create. Whether or not it really helps sleep apnea sufferers is still not determined.

A diet like this will improve anyone’s health, however. Over time, this nutritious diet combined with exercise may be the perfect cure for sleep apnea; or the least, obesity.

Delicious Dishes

Eating to lose weight and sleep better at night doesn’t have to be painful. Have a look at some of these Mediterranean favorites:

-Red wine risotto

-Seafood couscous paella

-Roasted eggplant and feta dip

-Chopped chicken Greek salad

Not to mention,

-Roasted leg of lamb with rosemary, lemon and garlic

-Cheese and garlic breadcrumb stuffed artichokes, and

-Tabbouleh salad

With such a rich variety of healthy ingredients, the Mediterranean diet is delicious and never boring.

Part of a Plan

Regardless of the diet plan, chronic and obstructive sleep apnea sufferers need to follow a multi-pronged approach to achieving deeper, quality sleep. A proper diet is one step, exercise is another, and when the doctor recommends it, a CPAP mask is yet another.

Also, find a good sleep pillow (see sleepbetter2night blog below,) and consider using bricks under the head of your bed. Elevating the head of the bed instead of the upper body helps keep the airway open.

The Mediterranean diet mat not be the cure-all for sleep apnea, but it seems to help, and it certainly can't hurt!


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    • Free2seethemoon profile image

      Free2seethemoon 6 years ago from Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean

      That's fantastic L.L. Woodard. It's a great diet, or lifestyle change may be more appropriate. I hope it works well for you and future research is positive. Thanks for dropping by!

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      I am a recent follower of the Mediterranean diet, having been suggested by my doctor for treatment of type 2 diabetes, so I'm always interested in learning more about it.

      The results of this initial study on this eating style and sleep apnea is interesting. It'll be even better when further study is conducted.

      Voted up and SHARED.