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Sleep Apnea is a Nutritional Deficiency

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 03/08/2024

Sleep apnea can have serious health consequences and is a leading cause of disrupted sleep. More research has emerged showing that sleep apnea may be related to nutrient deficiencies.

Let's investigate the implications of sleep apnea-related nutritional deficiencies and their effects on those with the condition. Discover the role high glucose levels play in causing sleep apnea and why vitamin B1 is essential for proper brainstem function.

Sleep Apnea and Nutritional Deficiency

Sleep apnea interrupts breathing during slumber, affecting the quality of sleep. Even though you are tired you might not be sleeping well.

High glucose levels can deplete vitamin B1, known as thiamine, which maintains normal brainstem function related to breathing centers.

Types of Sleep Apnea:

  • Central Sleep Apnea: This type occurs when there is a failure in communication between the brainstem and the phrenic nerve, leading to a temporary cessation of breathing during sleep.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Although not directly caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, this type occurs when airway obstruction occurs due to factors such as obesity or enlarged tonsils. However, adequate thiamine levels can help support proper brainstem function and potentially alleviate some symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea.

Let's explore how nutritional deficiencies contribute to sleep apnea and how to address this issue.

Diabetes illustration

The Role of High Glucose Levels in Causing Sleep Apnea

High glucose levels cause health issues like diabetes and obesity. However, excessive sugar intake can also lead to sleep apnea.

This happens because sugar depletes essential nutrients like vitamin B1, affecting the proper functioning of our respiratory system. Vitamin B1 is vital for maintaining normal function within the brainstem, particularly regarding its connection with breathing centers.

These centers regulate respiration through involuntary muscle contractions that inhale and exhale air. When sugar depletes vitamin B1, it impairs these vital areas, resulting in conditions like sleep apnea.

Vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by irregular breathing patterns due to impaired phrenic nerve functioning. The lack of thiamine affects the normal functioning of our body's phrenic nerve, which controls diaphragm movement and motor control.

As a result, breathing patterns become irregular during sleep, causing frequent interruptions and poor-quality rest.

The Link Between Phrenic Nerve Dysfunction and Disrupted Sleeping Patterns

Phrenic nerve dysfunction caused by depleted vitamin B1 levels disrupts our sleeping patterns due to irregularities in respiration.

This can result in snoring, labored breathing during sleep, daytime exhaustion, headaches upon waking up, and difficulty with concentration throughout the day.

Symptoms of Vitamin B1 Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin B1 can lead to sleep apnea, lactic acidosis, dyspnea, beriberi, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), thus highlighting the significance of detecting nutrient deficiencies when experiencing sleeping difficulties or other related symptoms.

Understanding these associated health risks emphasizes addressing potential nutrient deficiencies when experiencing difficulty sleeping or other related issues.

Lactic Acidosis

A deficiency in vitamin B1 can lead to a condition known as lactic acidosis, which is characterized by increased acidity. This increased acidity, known as lactic acidosis, can cause muscle pain, weakness, rapid breathing, and even organ failure if left untreated.

The connection between low thiamine intake and lactic acidosis highlights the need for proper nutrition to maintain overall health.

Dyspnea and Beriberi

Beriberi is a condition caused by severe vitamin B1 deficiency that affects the nervous system.

One symptom of this disease is dyspnea, which refers to shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Dyspnea may worsen during physical activity or when lying down flat on your back due to fluid accumulation in the lungs from heart dysfunction caused by beriberi.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Low Vitamin B1 Levels

Recognizing the connection between sleep apnea and other symptoms related to low vitamin B1 levels is essential.

Sleep apnea can exacerbate health issues such as lactic acidosis and dyspnea, further complicating overall well-being.

Addressing nutritional deficiencies like insufficient thiamine intake can improve your sleep quality and alleviate these associated symptoms.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a devastating event that occurs when an infant dies suddenly and unexpectedly during their sleep.

Research has suggested that severe vitamin B1 deficiency may contribute to SIDS, affecting vital brainstem areas responsible for breathing control.

Vitamin K deficiency, Doctor writing on transparent screen

Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies Through Supplementation

If you suspect that your sleep problems might stem from nutritional deficiencies such as low vitamin B1 levels, it's crucial to take action by supplementing your diet.

How much vitamin B1 should you take daily?

The recommended daily intake for adults ranges between 100-500mg, depending on individual needs and existing deficiency levels.

However, it's always best to consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen. They can provide personalized guidance based on your circumstances and ensure the appropriate dosage for optimal results.

The benefits of using nutritional yeast

  • Natural source: Nutritional yeast is an excellent natural source of various essential nutrients like thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6) and folic acid.

  • Easily absorbed: Since these vitamins are naturally occurring, they tend to be more easily absorbed by the body than synthetic supplements.

  • Vegan-friendly: Nutritional yeast is suitable for those following plant-based diets since it provides vital nutrients typically found in animal products without any animal-derived ingredients involved.

  • Taste and versatility: With its savory, cheese-like flavor, nutritional yeast can be easily incorporated into various dishes to enhance taste and boost nutrient content. You can add it to your greens, stir it into sauces or broths, or use it as a topping for popcorn.

In addition to vitamin B1 supplementation through unfortified nutritional yeast, adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as following the ketogenic diet and practicing intermittent fasting may help improve sleep quality by reducing high glucose levels contributing to sleep apnea.

Remember that addressing underlying health issues is critical to ensuring restful nights and overall well-being.

Ensuring Adequate Nutrition for Infants

Don't let SIDS scare you. Ensuring your baby gets proper nutrition is critical to reducing the risk factors of this tragic syndrome.

Breastfeeding or fortified formula milk can provide nutrients like vitamin B1 during early development to promote overall well-being. In addition, encouraging healthy eating habits in early childhood can ensure a lifetime of health and well-being.


Vitamin B1 is essential for proper brainstem function and breathing centers, so depleted levels can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and symptoms like lactic acidosis and dyspnea.

Supplementing with nutritional yeast and following a low-carb diet promotes vitamin B1 levels and can support restful sleep.

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