Have Sleep Apnea? Here Are 4 Foods To Eat And 4 Foods To Avoid

The food that you consume is vital for maintaining a healthy body and is especially important for those who suffer from conditions like sleep apnea. The right kinds of food can massively improve your health, while eating the wrong foods can make your condition worse.

Being overweight increases the likelihood of developing sleep apnea. According to the Sleep Foundation, between 60% and 90% of adults with sleep apnea are clinically obese. Excess weight causes fat deposits to build up in the neck and block the airways when you’re asleep, and fat build up around the chest can compress the chest and reduce the volume of the lungs.

That being said, a vital way of combating sleep apnea is to lose weight. So, here are 4 foods you should eat and 4 foods to avoid eating to help improve your sleep apnea.

Foods To Eat:

Whole Grain

To lose weight in a safe, healthy and sustainable way, it’s recommended that you focus on a plant-based, whole-food diet. Not only will this help you lose weight and help with sleep apnea, but you’ll also lower your risk of developing other conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Whole grains like bulgur, brown rice, quinoa, and oats are full of fiber and other forms of nutrition that you need to satisfy your hunger. Eating whole grains helps you feel fuller for longer, meaning that you don’t need to eat so much during the day. Oats make a delicious breakfast and pairing them with fresh fruits and low-fat yogurt will guarantee that you won’t need to snack during the morning.

Whole grains are also packed with loads of vital nutrients that your body needs to help combat sickness, including zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, B vitamins and antioxidants.

Fruits And Vegetables

Fiber-rich foods that help promote fullness like fruits and vegetables are incredibly low in calories and can stop you from overeating. For a healthy and balanced diet, an adult should eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables a day, or 400g in total, although some experts argue that as many as ten portions should be eaten a day.

Make sure to keep your intake varied. It’s not good to simply eat five apples and think you’re done. Every fruit and vegetable has different benefits, so it’s important to eat a wide range of them. Plus, apples will start to get incredibly boring really quickly!

Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are generally better than cooked, as cooking them removes a large proportion of their nutritional value, but dried fruit and unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice can count towards your five portions a day as well.

Low-Fat Dairy

Dairy foods are super high in vitamin D, calcium, and protein. Again, they help promote feelings of fullness and stop you from overeating. Skimmed or fat-free milk and low-fat cheeses and yogurts all help keep bones strong, whilst vitamin D helps protect your immune system and protein encourages muscle growth.

High-fat dairy isn’t recommended if you suffer from sleep apnea, as it can increase your body’s mucus production, which can add to breathing issues at night.

Plant-Based Oils

Saturated fats, which are found in butter and margarine, can be bad for your heart and circulation if eaten too often. Whilst The American heart Association recommend only getting 5% to 6% of your daily calorific intake from saturated fats, lowering your intake of them can greatly increase your chances of losing weight and becoming healthier. When cooking, substitute butter and lard for plant-based oils like rapeseed, olive, canola or flax.

Foods To Avoid

High-Fat Dairy

Substitute whole or semi-skimmed milk for low-fat or skimmed alternatives. Whilst dairy contains very important properties that can aid in weight loss, high-fat dairy can exacerbate sleep apnea by producing too much mucus in your body. This mucus can settle in your throat or lungs and cause breathing issues.

High-Fat Meats

Cutting fat out of the diet is incredibly important for helping with sleep apnea, so consuming high-fat meats like beef and pork should be kept at a minimum – or cut out entirely if you can bear to say goodbye to barbecues for a while. Fried fish and chicken should also be avoided. However, when not fried, fish can be hugely beneficial to sleep apnea sufferers. The high omega-3 content of fish, such as salmon, may help improve bone and joint health, reduce liver fat, prevent cancer, and improve sleep, among other benefits.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbs are found in foods like bread, rice, pasta, and breakfast cereal and contain a lot of added sugar which will, of course, contribute to weight gain. When complex carbohydrates (which can be found in whole-grain foods) are refined, their nutritional value is removed, and they contain very few vitamins or minerals that the body needs. They are also processed far too quickly by the body, meaning that, unlike whole grains, they tend to make us feel hungrier faster and often encourage overeating.

Luckily, most refined carb foods have whole grain alternatives. So, you don’t have to cut out your favorite pasta dishes from your diet or stop eating bread. Just be sure to check the labels when you’re buying your food and opt for whole grain versions instead.


Yes, fruits are a necessary part of a healthy diet – but not all fruits are the same. Like high-fat dairy products, eating bananas can actually increase the mucus production in your body, which can make breathing problems worse when lying down and can contribute to sleep apnea.

Changing your diet to help combat sleep apnea may seem like a daunting task, but losing weight and getting healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply take small steps towards swapping out the bad foods listed above for the good ones. You can still enjoy your favorite foods by seeking out healthier versions of them, and you’ll reap the benefits of weight loss, better sleep, and so much more.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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