05/28/2008 06:00 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Got Sleep Apnea? Go Green, as in Green Tea

If you find yourself having the proverbial brain freeze at work all too often, and you know you suffer from sleep apnea (or think you do because you just can't feel rested after a long night's sleep), then listen up: it's time to reach for the green tea.

More than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes your airway to collapse during sleep. If you're among those millions, then each night your breathing essentially gets cut off multiple times, and so does that restful sleep. Untreated sufferers of sleep apnea never feel fully rested, which can result in chronic sleep deprivation that can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

You could have apnea if:

  • You snore
  • You wake up with a headache
  • You're moody most days
  • You are tired to the point of falling asleep
  • You have constant congestion
  • Someone has seen you stop breathing

But there's some good news to report: chemicals found in green tea may be able to prevent some of the cognitive problems that can happen with obstructive sleep apnea.

Green Tea Can Help Your Memory

Cognitive problems, you're wondering? That's right, sleep apnea isn't just
about missing out on a few breaths of air through the night. All those
intermittent moments of oxygen deprivation add up, and your body isn't
able to reach a level of sleep that is restorative--where the brain can
essentially re-boot itself and prepare for the next day when it will
need to learn new things, solve problems, and tap its memory card.

Other Benefits of Green Tea and Polyphenols

The benefits of green tea don't end with the brain boost, though. The researchers
who discovered this
recently also confirmed what we already know about
the positive effects green tea can have on us. Its rich supply of
polyphenols acts as a powerful antioxidant to help tame the flames of
inflammation and oxidative stress--two big agers in the body.

So yes,
green tea may help you beat sleep apnea deficits, but the bonus is you
can give yourself a good dose of anti-aging ingredients, too.

Green Tea and Weight Loss

In a recent post, I talked about ways to lose weight (so you can
sleep better at night). Nixing sugar-laden drinks is an easy way to
steer clear of a boatload of unnecessary calories.

Regardless of
whether or not you suffer from sleep apnea, give green tea a try for a
week. Switch out your sodas and juices for a thermos of hot or cold
green tea. Sip on it all day and avoid other drinks (don't worry, tea
is also a source of water).

At the end of the week, check in with
yourself: do you feel sharper-minded and maybe a pound or two lighter?

What I'd like to know is if other sources of polyphenols can also be
as effective. These include berries, beer, grapes (including wine),
olive oil, chocolate/cocoa, walnuts, peanuts, pomegranates, yerba mate,
and other fruits and vegetables.

One thing is for sure: drinking green tea is something you can do
all day long (try de-caff in the afternoons). Not sure the same could
be said for the other polyphenol friends.

This post is cross-posted at Dr. Breus's blog, The Insomnia Blog.