HomeFitnessFoods you should shouldn't eat if you have sleep apnea

Foods you should shouldn’t eat if you have sleep apnea


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts because the airway is partially or entirely blocked for several seconds.

Poster about sleep apnea
Poster about sleep apnea

If you suffer from the condition, what you eat can help mitigate or, conversely, exacerbate the condition.

Some foods with anti-inflammatory components can help keep your airway open and promote healthy sleep. 

With this in mind, it’s important to know which foods are best to put on your plate, and which ones you should limit.

Below, you’ll find a list of some of the best foods for sleep apnea as well as what you should avoid for much-needed rest.

Foods that may help

Foods rich in melatonin

Fruits and vegetables besides being rich in nutrients and fibres – and of course low on calories – are high in sleep-promoting compounds such as tryptophan, magnesium, and yes, melatonin.

Eating these foods can help you drift off to sleep easier by naturally boosting your body’s melatonin level. 

The best dietary sources of this sleepy hormone:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Corn
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumbers  

Many also recommend tart cherry juice as the best melatonin-rich food.

Omega-3 foods

Various studies reveal that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids cause sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults.

Eating a variety of omega-3 sources or supplementing with omega-3 can increase the length and quality of sleep.

Omega-3 fatty acids can help your body produce melatonin. Seafood items are your best bet to increase melatonin production. So reach for some tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and shrimp.

Other foods that provide omega-3s

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Nuts
  • Kidney beans
  • Chia seeds
  • Soyabean Oil
  • Flaxseeds

Tryptophan-infused foods

A growing body of research shows that diets rich in tryptophan are linked to better-quality sleep.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that serves as a building block for melatonin.

The body cannot create this essential component, because of which, we’ve got to eat tryptophan-rich foods to make sure we’re getting good doses of this amino acid circulating in our bodies.

Foods known to be high in tryptophan include:

  • Chicken
  • Oats
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Fish and Turkey
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • Warm milk

Foods that may hurt

Fatty meats

If you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, fatty meats like hamburgers, steak, pork, bacon, lamb, and sausage can alleviate or worsen the symptoms you endure.

These are high in saturated fats and are digested slowly. Eating too much of these items may cause stomach issues, bloating or heartburn, if eaten too soon before lying down and in a large quantity.

These discomforting symptoms can make it hard to both fall and stay asleep and also exacerbate existing sleep apnea.


While most fruits are great for improving symptoms of sleep apnea, bananas are an exception.

The fruit can actually increase mucus and phlegm production in your mouth and throat.

This can be problematic to those who suffer from OSA and dramatically worsen breathing issues while sleeping.

Bananas are more likely to contribute to your condition if they’re softer and more overripe.

High-fat dairy items

Dairy products with high-fat content can increase your body’s mucus production and make breathing more difficult.

Also, obesity is a risk factor for OSA, which can be caused by eating too much high-fat dairy.

So, hit the pause button, or at least limit the consumption of high-fat dairy products such as cream, full-fat milk, and cheese.

Final thoughts

In summation, altering dietary quality might affect OSA severity. Eating the right type of food is an important component of your overall sleep apnea care regimen.

When making lifestyle changes — including following a healthy sleep pattern, and reducing body weight — the right foods can help you get a good night’s sleep too. Consider the above as some food for thought the next time when you’re grocery shopping.

As an add-on, make a habit of taking preventive health checkups as they can help you in getting a complete insight into your health.

Linda Barbara

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