In this two-part blog post series, we will be touching base on a topic not many people are familiar with: nutritional deficiencies and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Yes, there is a clear connection between sleep apnea and nutritional deficiencies, which makes it important for you to educate your patients on proper care. For part one we will discuss the following nutritional deficiencies and their affect on sleep apnea:

  • Antioxidant Status
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D

Each of these nutritional deficiencies can affect sleep apnea in one way or another, which means understanding what happens can significantly improve your patients’ health and well-being. But I won’t delay this any longer—let’s get started with nutritional deficiences!

Antioxidant Status

It is well documented that sleep apnea patients have both reduced antioxidant capacity and higher levels of oxidative stress than controls. Sleep apnea is associated with oxidative stress, which is the excessive build-up of free radicals. It is also associated with decreased antioxidant capacity, which is the ability of the body to counter oxidative stress, and decreased blood levels of various antioxidants, such as vitamin E and carotenoids. The excessive oxidative stress associated with sleep apnea then leads to what is known as “endothelial dysfunction,” in which the blood vessels do not properly relax and contract. It is also the primary mechanism causing heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes! Various types of antioxidant supplements have been researched as treatments and found to be beneficial as natural remedies for sleep apnea.

Vitamin C

Improves endothelial function (blood vessel health) in sleep apnea patients to levels seen in people without sleep apnea. A study from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that vitamin C can help reduce the damage of sleep apnea. Scientists have found that sleep apnea can have damaging effects on the cells, but vitamin C can help to counteract that damage. By increasing vitamin C consumption while treating sleep apnea, you can potentially help reduce the dangerous effects of sleep apnea.

Vitamin A

Sleep apnea patients have low retinol (vitamin A). Retinol suppresses the growth of vascular smooth muscle, a process that causes blood vessels to clog, linking low vitamin A levels to the cardiovascular complications seen in sleep apnea patients.

Vitamin E

Mitigates the oxidative stress seen in sleep apnea patients and works synergistically with vitamin C. The primary role of vitamin E in your body is as an antioxidant—this helps protect your cells from harmful molecules formed during normal metabolic processes. It also plays a role in regulating your immune system. Vitamin E may even help in the prevention or treatment of health conditions related to heart disease, aging and cancer. Essential to your daily functions, vitamin E is recommended in a person’s daily diet to prevent nutrient deficiency.

Vitamin D

We’ve discussed this before, but people with sleep apnea have a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. And, the worse the sleep apnea is, the more severe the deficiency appears to be. Evidence suggests that vitamin D worsens sleep apnea’s negative effect on heart disease risk. Because vitamin D deficiency is so common and linked to so many sleep apnea symptoms, including mood disturbances and muscle pain, it is important to make sure your patients are maintaining the optimal level of vitamin D daily.

Remember, when your patients suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, there are other factors in play here. Keep in mind the different nutritional deficiencies that might interrupt sleep and worsen sleep apnea in order to provide your patients with optimal care.