Scientists have found that the punctuated breathing in apnea imposes
oxidative stress on the body, and that antioxidants in the diet can
actually improve sleep quality.
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20073373) (Although a recent Polish study concluded otherwise.http://www.jnrbm.com/content/7/1/10)
Experiments where animals were forced to experience intermittent hypoxia (to simulate apnea) found the animals suffer problems in memory and learning, and that at a cellular level these animals have more reactive oxygen species floating around. This oxidative stress leads to tissue damage, inflammation, and apoptotic neuronal cell death. Treatment with antioxidants might help protect brain cells. The evidence is unclear. We don't mean to hedge, but when it comes to antioxidants and antioxidant supplements science has yet to find definitive answers about so much.
In any case, what is the person with apnea to do?
Researchers at the University of Louisville reviewed the effects of the antioxidant compounds, known as polyphenols, found in green tea and concluded that drinking several cups of green tea each day may help to ward of cognitive problems and memory loss in people who have the sleep disorder.
More specifically they concluded catechin polyphenols may relieve
neurobehavioral deficits caused by intermittent hypoxia.
This was concluded from animal experiments, but if you scale up the regimens used it is the equivalent of a human drinking six to 10 cups of green tea each day. Rats that were given green tea-infused water to drink consistently and significantly outperformed their plain water counterparts on tests of memory and spatial learning.
In recent years, there has been a considerable amount of research conducted on green tea and some even claim it can slow the progression of memory decline experienced in Alzheimer’s patients.
Another study of N-acetylcysteine supplements found they may have the potential to help apnea patients fend off damage from apnea-induced oxidants.
Waking imposes an oxidative stress on the brain and part of the "housekeeping" function of sleep is repair and protection against this stress. Prolonged sleep deprivation activates an adaptive stress pathway that the body uses to protect against oxidative compounds. The body therefore acts as its own anti-oxidant producer. This pathway is similar to the processes the body uses to protect itself against neurodegenerative diseases.
Does this mean you should take antioxidant supplements to help you sleep? Experts aren’t ready to go that far, but it is safe to say a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help maintain overall health.There is also evidence that eating anti-oxidant rich kiwi fruit can help improve sleep quality.
And of course melatonin, the neurohormone so important in the
regulation of the sleep cycle, acts as an antioxidant in the body.