The Vital Trio of Diet, Exercise, and Sleep in Managing Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A balanced diet, regular exercise and adequate quality sleep are the three critical controllable factors for holistic health.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) destroys healthy sleep patterns, meaning that diet and exercise therefore have a an especially important part to play for OSA sufferers.

Diet and Exercise are factors which:
Should be acted on if your BMI (Body Mass Index) is high, regardless of which OSA therapy is undertaken.
Become critical where CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy cannot be tolerated.
May reduce the need for OSA therapy at all, in some mild cases.

Obesity is a significant risk factor for OSA, particularly fat in the neck area and abdomen. Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little. Therefore, if you consume high amounts of energy, particularly fat and sugars, but don’t burn off that energy through exercise and physical activity, much of the surplus energy will be stored by the body as fat.

Exercise increases people’s total energy expenditure, which can help lose weight, as long as you don’t eat more to compensate for the extra calories you burn. Physical activity decreases fat around the waist and total body fat, slowing the development of abdominal obesity.

Treatment with CPAP is not tolerated by all OSA patients and is often not suitable in cases of mild OSA. Hence, alternative methods to treat OSA and its cardiovascular consequences are needed. In OSA patients, regular physical exercise has beneficial effects other than weight loss, although the mechanisms of those effects remain somewhat unclear.

In addition to systemic clinical benefits and weight reduction resulting from physical exercise, OSA patients involved in a regular, predominantly aerobic exercise program – either alone or combined with resistance training – have shown a reduction in disease severity. Their daytime sleepiness reduces and sleep efficiency improves, as does peak oxygen consumption, from a regular exercise regime.For many OSA patients, improvements from exercise have included increases in upper airway dilator muscle tone and in slow-wave sleep time; and decreases in fluid accumulation in the neck, systemic inflammatory response, and body weight.

Eating well is just good common sense. The saying which originated in 1826 “You are what you eat” is just as applicable today.
Your sleep and physical exertion have direct impacts on each other. Many of us know of the deep, sound sleep we often experience after sustained physical activity, such as a bushwalk, a long bike ride, or even a day of working in the garden. Many of us also have unfortunately experienced the discomfort in getting to sleep after having overindulged on rich food!

Working hard to optimise adequate quality sleep, regular exercise and a balanced diet, is really worth the effort. and you are not alone in your efforts when you come to The SleepGP. While the latter two controllable health factors are primarily the patient’s responsibility, at SleepGP we address all three factors with our patients as part of SleepGP’s coaching approach to your care. A GP Management Plan or a Team Care Arrangement (funded by Medicare) involving a dietiician, for example, can be established by or with your usual GP to provide you wrap around support to manage your OSA.

At SleepGP we don’t “flog you a CPAP” like the profit driven commercial sleep shops and online sales organisations, who then leave you to your own devices. An ongoing Management Plans mean that you don’t leave it to chance to achieve a good night’s sleep free from the ‘choking’ events associated with OSA, or from the frightening and erratic gasping of your bed partner as they try to sleep.

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