It puts you at risk for stroke, diabetes, hypertension, car accidents, cognitive decline, and more
We all have busy lives.
We work hard to prepare healthy meals, pay bills, clean the house, get some exercise, and, if we’re lucky, spend some time with family and friends.
So, by the late evening, most of us just want to climb into bed, turn off the lights, and get some much-needed rest.
The problem is… there’s a sneaky culprit that can STEAL your health while you sleep, silently putting you at risk for stroke, diabetes, hypertension, car accidents, cognitive decline, and even DEATH.
Plus, up to 90 percent of people affected by this hidden danger don’t even know they’re at risk!
What’s even more tragic? The earlier you know about it, the sooner you can take steps to completely turn your prognosis around. Meaning early detection is absolutely crucial…
Sneaky and dangerous
The sneaky night culprit I’m talking about is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
It’s incredibly common—affecting about 30 million Americans—yet up to 90 percent of cases remain undiagnosed.1,2
It occurs when your throat muscles relax while you sleep, blocking airflow into your lungs. As a result, your brain senses that you’re not getting enough air and briefly wakes you up to reopen your airway.
During these OSA episodes, you may audibly snort, choke, or gasp to catch your breath. These episodes can happen up to 30 times a night, making it difficult—if not impossible—to reach the deep, restorative sleep phases we all NEED.
Common symptoms to watch out for include:
- Loud snoring (not always present)
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Waking up with a dry mouth (caused by
- Periods of wakefulness through the night
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
If you think you might have sleep apnea, it’s important to get a confirmed diagnosis sooner than later. Because, as I mentioned, it puts you at risk for developing any number of serious conditions… including cognitive decline and early death. (Learn more about other causes of cognitive decline on page 3.)
Overnight testing at a sleep clinic used to be the only option for getting an accurate diagnosis. But now, your doctor can try to prescribe a home sleep test. It’s much easier to schedule—and much less of a hassle overall. Plus, most insurance companies will cover at least a part of the home testing fee.
Both testing options measure pauses in breathing, how much effort it takes for you to breathe, and whether your breathing is deep or shallow.
Afterward, a sleep technologist will review the results and send them to your doctor. Then, your doctor will reach out with a definitive diagnosis.
If it turns out you have OSA, you can start taking steps to improve the condition right away. In turn, you’ll help reduce your risk of developing a more serious health problem.
Most mainstream treatments address the symptoms—NOT the cause!
Using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is usually the first line of treatment for people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. The machine delivers a continuous stream of air into your nose, keeping your airway open while you sleep.
But remember—this machine only addresses the symptoms of sleep apnea. Not the cause.
Plus, many people find CPAP machines hard to tolerate. In fact, studies suggest that up to 50 percent or more of patients with sleep apnea either stop using their machine or never bother to fill their prescription.4
There’s also a new sleep apnea “innovation” on the market called “Inspire.” It’s a device that doctors surgically implant into your airway. And it delivers stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve, which prompts your tongue to move out of the way.
While it’s less cumbersome than using a CPAP machine, “Inspire” is costly, requires outpatient surgery, and most insurance plans won’t cover it. Not to mention, just like the CPAP machine, it fails to address the underlying cause of your sleep apnea!5
With that being said, let’s move on to some steps you can take, starting today, that DO address the underlying cause. They’re highly effective—and benefit your health in MANY ways…
Effective, low-cost, non-invasive treatments
In my opinion, the very best treatments for sleep apnea involve addressing the ROOT CAUSE. For many sufferers, that includes carrying excess weight, eating a poor diet, not exercising, and, ironically, not prioritizing sleep.
Here’s what I mean…
Researchers with the University of Pennsylvania recently began studying sleep apnea in obese patients.6 To start, they recruited 67 obese men and women with mild to severe sleep apnea.
Over the next six months, patients lost nearly 10 percent of their body weight, on average, through a variety of methods. For a 250-pound man or 190-pound woman, that’s less than 25 or 19 pounds, respectively.
And get this…
After losing the weight, their sleep apnea scores improved by an impressive 31 percent!
The research team credited this improvement to a reduction in tongue fat volume. The participants experienced fat reductions in other areas of the throat and jaw as well, which seemed to further contribute to the improvement.
In a second study, it appears that looking beyond weight loss—and making some broader lifestyle changes—resulted in even greater improvements…
For this study, researchers randomized 89 overweight and obese sleep apnea patients into two groups.7 The first received usual care, which involved using a CPAP machine at night.
The second group used a CPAP machine and began an eight-week lifestyle intervention program that included adopting healthy changes to their diet, exercise, and sleeping habits.
At the end of eight weeks, the lifestyle-intervention group had a 51 percent reduction in sleep apnea events, which increased to an impressive 57 percent reduction after six months.
Some patients even saw their condition completely vanish!
And that’s not all. After eight weeks, 45 percent of the intervention group no longer needed CPAP therapy. At the end of six months, that increased to 62 percent!
Now, let’s zero in on one piece of that study you may not realize contributes to sleep apnea…
The sleep apnea-junk food connection
The intervention group that experienced such remarkable results made one particularly noteworthy change to their lifestyle…
They cleaned up their diets.
Specifically, they were encouraged to eat more healthy, whole foods—such as seafood, chicken, healthy oils, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and beans. They were also encouraged to DITCH the junk food—especially ultra-processed foods, processed meats, salty snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages.8
As the lead author said, “It wasn’t a restrictive, low-calorie diet… we just taught them how to eat a healthy diet.”
Here’s where things got really interesting…
Not everyone in the intervention group who followed a healthier diet actually lost weight. But they still saw reductions in their sleep apnea events! Which likely means that the junk food (independently of excess weight) is a trigger for sleep apnea.
Indeed, researchers think that a diet filled with ultra-processed foods may drive up inflammation levels, which likely prompts sleep apnea events.
The bottom line?
The common lifestyle habits I routinely urge you to modify—like diet and exercise—will help keep sleep apnea from sneaking in and wreaking havoc on your health.
Not to mention, following a healthy, balanced diet and routinely moving your body may help you lose any excess weight you may be carrying. Put it all together, and we have a recipe for sounder sleep… and better overall health.
- “What doctors wish patients knew about sleep apnea.” American Medical Association, 4/1/22. (ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-sleep-apnea)
- “Validation of the STOP-Bang Questionnaire for Screening of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in the General Population and Commercial Drivers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Sleep Breath. 2021:1–11. doi.org/10.1007/s11325-021-02299-y.
- “Sleep Apnea.” Mayo Clinic, 4/6/23. (mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20377631)
- “Interventions for the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults: A Health Technology Assessment.” Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, 2017. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535538/)
- “Inspire Sleep Apnea Treatment Review.” Forbes, 5/2/23. (forbes.com/health/body/inspire-sleep-apnea-review/)
- “Effect of Weight Loss on Upper Airway Anatomy and the Apnea-Hypopnea Index: The Importance of Tongue Fat.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2019; 201(6). doi.org/10.1164/rccm.201903-0692OC
- “Effect of an Interdisciplinary Weight Loss and Lifestyle Intervention on Obstructive Sleep Apnea Severity.” JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(4):e228212. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.8212
- “Diet changes can imporove sleep apnea, even without weight loss.” Washington Post, 11/15/22. (washingtonpost.com/wellness/2022/11/15/sleep-apnea-diet-treatment-alcohol/)