A new study has found a two-pronged approach to battling sleep apnea symptoms. Its health tip: combining a Mediterranean diet and regular physical activity could help you improve your night time rest.
The study looked at how the Mediterranean diet could help obese adults with sleep apnea compared to those with a typical diet. This health condition causes frequent pauses of breathing to occur during sleep. It can be dangerous over the long term, and is one of the most prevalent sleep-related breathing disorders. Two to four out of every 100 adults experience sleep apnea. But that rises 20% to 40% among obese individuals.
Here is how the Mediterranean diet differs from the typical one: three servings of red meat a week (compared to nine); three servings of fish a week (compared to one); four servings of fruit per day (compared to one or two); five servings of vegetables per day (compared to one or two); three servings of legumes per week (compared to one); six servings of whole grains per day (compared to two); and one or two glasses of red wine a day (compared to none).
Greek researchers examined 40 obese patients with apnea. Twenty patients were given a typical diet to follow, while the other 20 followed a Mediterranean diet. Both groups were also encouraged to increase their exercise, mainly involving walking for at least 30 minutes each day. And both received continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves wearing a mask that generates an air stream, keeping the upper airway open during sleep.
RECOMMENDED: How the Mediterranean Diet Could Make You Smarter
The results: those on the Mediterranean diet had fewer disturbances (called apnea), during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, which usually accounts for approximately 25% of total sleep during the night.
The findings also revealed that people following the Mediterranean diet a showed a greater adherence to the calorie-restricted diet, an increase in physical activity, and a greater decrease in stomach fat.
While the results need to be confirmed in larger studies, this is good news for people looking for answers to sleep apnea. Following the Mediterranean diet is in itself a very healthful approach to nutrition, as it is known to be involved in preventing a host of diseases.