If you’re looking for an easy alternative to CPAP for your sleep apnea, you may have come across the suggestion that vitamin D shortages are linked to sleep apnea and that you might be able to treat your sleep apnea by getting more vitamin D. With winter around the corner, shorter days and longer nights can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. You might be wondering if taking vitamin D supplements are the cure to your sleep apnea problem.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but a new study shows that there is likely no link between vitamin D and sleep apnea, so vitamin D supplements likely won’t help at all. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there’s no easy alternative to CPAP.
Why a Link Seemed Likely
Unlike many “natural cures” you may come across on the internet, the theory that links vitamin D shortages to sleep apnea isn’t completely crazy. Probably the biggest justification for the link is that obesity increases the risk of vitamin D shortages and sleep apnea.
In winter, people tend to have lower vitamin D levels because they’re getting less sun exposure, and winter is when sleep apnea is the worst.
Then, there’s a mechanism that links the two. Vitamin D helps your muscles maintain tone. So, decreased vitamin D could, conceivably, contribute to relaxed muscles in the throat, leading to a narrow or obstructed airway.
New Study Shows No Link
Without testing, the idea seems to have merit. Unfortunately, the first study really looking at the subject shows it’s most likely not true.
For this study, researchers looked at about 2800 men with an average age of 76. Despite their age and possible sleep apnea, they were all in generally good health. Researchers then compared vitamin D levels and sleep apnea incidence or severity.
Initially, it seemed that there might be a link because men with the lowest vitamin D levels had the highest risk of sleep apnea. But when they crossed the results with known sleep apnea risk factors, such as obesity and neck circumference, they found that there was not enough evidence to suggest that vitamin D shortage actually increases sleep apnea risk.
Researchers noted that the lack of outdoor activity among obese elderly men might contribute to both sleep apnea and low vitamin D.
Other Vitamin Deficiencies That Affect Sleep
It’s not only a vitamin D deficiency that can contribute to sleep apnea and sleep quality or quantity. There are a few other vitamin deficiencies that can also affect your sleep. One of the best ways to find out if you have a deficiency is to take a blood test. The blood test will tell you if you have a deficiency and your doctor will instruct you on which types of supplements to take.
Vitamin E supports immune health, cell function, and helps protect cells from damage. It’s antioxidant abilities also help the body with sleep and sleep problems. If you have sleep deprivation from sleep apnea, Vitamin E offers protection to the brain to prevent associated memory loss. Studies found that patients who have sleep apnea also have low levels of Vitamin E. The studies showed that increasing Vitamin E levels along with Vitamin C are shown to improve breathing and sleep quality in patients with sleep apnea.
Vitamin C plays a role in immune health and cardiovascular health by helping the body produce collagen. It also helps the body with sleep. Studies have shown that taking a combination of vitamin C and vitamin E can reduce the number of apnea episodes in the night. They also improve sleep quality and reduce the amount of daytime sleepiness. Lastly, vitamin C was found to improve the function of endothelial function in patients with sleep apnea, which relieves some of the stress that sleep apnea puts on the cardiovascular system.
Vitamin B6 assists with immune health as well as cognitive function and development. It can also aid sleep and affect dreams. There’s a link between vitamin B6 deficiency and depression and insomnia. It also aids in the production of serotonin and melatonin. These are both important for good quality sleep. With a strong relationship between depression and sleep problems, it’s safe to assume that a vitamin B6 deficiency can play a role in sleep problems.
Lastly, vitamin B12 is responsible for supporting cardiovascular health and brain function. When you have a B12 deficiency, it can result in insomnia, sleep disruption, and shorter sleep times. This can play a role in patients with sleep apnea.
Convenient Alternatives Do Exist
Even though increasing your vitamin D intake or other vitamins isn’t likely to help your sleep apnea, there is a treatment option that’s more comfortable and convenient than CPAP: oral appliance therapy. There’s no complex machine, hoses, or other attachments to deal with. There’s just a compact mouth guard you put in before bed.
Although certain vitamins can play a role in your sleep quality, you need an effective sleep apnea treatment to see consistent results that can change your life.
To learn whether you’re a candidate for this more comfortable approach to sleep apnea treatment, please call (248) 480-0085 for an appointment with a Detroit sleep dentist at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.