If you’re looking for an easyalternative 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.
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 vitamin D shortages are linked to sleep apnea isn’t completely crazy. Probably the biggest justification for the link is that obesity increases risk for vitamin D shortages and for sleep apnea.
In the winter, people tend to have lower vitamin D levels because they’re getting less sun exposure (though this winter probably saw less of a vitamin D dip than most), and winter is when sleep apnea is 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 probably 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 no 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.
Convenient Alternatives Do Exist
Even though vitamin D 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, just a compact mouth guard you put in before bed.