Gluten and Snoring?

Since sharing my experiences with Morton's Neuroma/surgery and recovery have been so helpful to the masses, I thought this might be worth sharing on my blog as well.

I do not have Celiac Disease and have never associated any physical symptoms with gluten, but I have snored for years. And I have always had a love affair with bread. I followed the South Beach Diet for a few weeks several years ago and dropped 7 or 8 pounds quickly. But I didn't give up my beloved bad carbs permanently and they crept back into my diet over time. I also resumed whole grain breads and cereals after the first few days because I love them and believed they were healthy. 

I work out and control portion sizes (most of the time) to maintain a healthy weight. At 54, I am only 3 pounds more than I was at 16, in spite of hitting the dreaded menopausal years. And I seem to do better with food when I don't deprive myself of anything specific. When I feel deprived, I think about food more and wind up craving things I normally wouldn't. 

Food is important to me (too important) and specifically the enjoyment of good food. So I have to have a different motivation to give anything up other than just losing a few pounds.

However, I have become more concerned about my snoring recently -- wondering if I might have sleep apnea (which puts one at greater risk for stroke). As I get older, I find myself thinking about my health more than ever and not taking it for granted. I have noticed how much better I feel and sleep when I eat a lighter and/or earlier dinner, for instance. But even that doesn't always motivate me in the moment.

Because of my snoring, John and I have slept with a sound machine -- white noise -- for years (even traveling with one) and John does not complain or get mad at me for snoring. He has been sweetly long suffering and repeatedly declines my offer to sleep in another room to see if he would sleep better. He says he doesn't sleep well anyway and doesn't sleep any better when I'm gone. But he will occasionally and very gently tap me if I'm facing him and disturbing him. And I immediately turn the other way. I have not done a sleep study because it seems like everyone who does gets diagnosed with apnea, and John has always assured me that I never stop breathing. Wearing a mask doesn't appeal to me if I can avoid it. And I just assume that will be the outcome of a sleep study. I've tried a few OTC remedies, which didn't help. But for the most part I've just accepted that I snore (like a freight train) and laughed about it.

A few months ago my sister-in-law told me that my brother's snoring dramatically improved when he eliminated bread and anything with "obvious" gluten in it from his daily diet. And when he splurges and has bread (usually Naan in an Indian restaurant) he snores heavily. She said they don't read every label and gluten is a hidden ingredient in lots of things. But all they do is avoid the obvious. And within three days of eliminating those sources, my brother's snoring goes away or fades to a gentler, quieter snore (if he snores at all). She has urged me several times to try this experiment to see if it would also help me. It has taken me months to get serious about this experiment, but I finally made it through 3 days of no bread Tuesday. Yesterday was Day 4.

Well, guess what? I asked John Tuesday night to notice any difference in my snoring when he was awake during the night (because he always has awake times during the night). Yesterday morning I asked, "Did I snore less last night?" And he said, "I don't know. I slept better than usual. But when I did wake up for a minute or two, your snoring was much quieter." 

Coincidence that he slept better? I think not.

I asked again this morning after Day 4. And he said again that he slept better than usual and when he did wake up, I was either not snoring or snoring very softly. So now I know that for some reason gluten and/or wheat products contribute to my snoring. It's obviously not the two pounds I've lost this week because I've weighed less and still snored. But I'll take the weight loss as a nice side benefit of avoiding bread products. And I hope to drop a few more. I like being a few pounds lighter than I've been since moving to WV and discovering all the great new restaurants here.

I wish I could tell you I don't even want bread after four days. I realize I will always want bread. I love bread (and pizza and sandwiches). And I don't intend to go without it for the rest of my life. But I don't need to eat it daily. I think I can save it for a special occasion (like Pies and Pints) and greatly restrict it in my regular diet. 

If I were just avoiding gluten/carbs to lose weight or even to feel a little better physically, I probably wouldn't stay motivated daily. But if this is all it takes to decrease or eliminate my snoring, I think I can stay motivated. In all the years John and I have been married, his answer to the question, "How did you sleep?" has always been, "The same as I always sleep." He trained himself to be a light sleeper when Brittany was little and suffered with asthma. He listened for her breathing throughout the night because she had asthma from the time she was an infant. He was a single dad for years and there were many trips to the ER in the middle of the night. And he's never had a night of uninterrupted sleep since I've known him. I don't think he's ever said the words, "For some reason I slept better than usual last night." 
Until the last two nights. That motivates me.

It is typically the husband who snores. In our case, it's me. We have always laughed about it and just accepted it. But I'm pretty excited about the results of my gluten experiment and just thought I'd share. Hopefully this might help someone else. If your spouse isn't willing to give up bread so you can get a better night's sleep, just tell them "Well, I guess you don't love me as much as Shari loves John." LOL. (Just kidding. You probably shouldn't say that.)


Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing this! Besides reading labels, did you have a resource that was a helpful guide to go gluten free?
Shari said…
No. I am just avoiding obvious sources of gluten -- like bread and "breaded" foods, crackers, etc. Anything with wheat in it. I went to the health food store today and bought a loaf of cinnamon raisin gluten free bread for toast that I will try with peanut butter. There are so many gluten free products these days, it shouldn't be that hard. But I will still splurge now and then on pizza. I will just have a new reason to limit my number of slices. I won't have to be as strict as someone who is actually allergic to gluten.
This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!
! Finally I have found something which helped me. Cheers!
Deb Light said…
That's great Shari!Thanks for sharing!Hannah snores very loudly and while staying with us the past 5 weeks,we didn't eat much bread and she didn't snore as much either.I think you are on to something there!!
God Bless,
Unknown said…
Hmm… does eating bread during breakfast trigger loud snoring at night? You could try that; and if it yields positive results, you’ll get to eat bread and pastry for breakfast or brunch, and he can still get a good night’s sleep. Win-win!

Anonymous said…
I tried going gluten free in May 2013. It's now Nov and I have lost 12-15 lbs, I feel great, no afternoon crash, and I have vitually eliminated snoring. I think it's due to the sytemic mucous produced by a gluten intolerance. But really I don't care what it is. I and my wife sleep better, and this happened within 3 days of me making the change. FYI I exercise a lot more too and drink water, avoid fatty foods etc. It all matters...
Unknown said…
@ColinW: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is definitely a factor. But in this case, it would be nice to know if to what amount or if the mere consumption of gluten-rich foods can trigger snore fits in the evening. Though if you do eat other foods that aid in digestion and get your metabolism flowing, gluten intake should not really be a problem.

TMJ & Sleep Therapy Center
Simbadog said…
this happened to me too. eliminating gluten has helped with acid reflux, snoring, joint aches and my head is clearer. I never would have thought but I do now.
Unknown said…
I agree with Michael. Although the effect of gluten intake is not the same for different people, it is still best to avoid them if you feel like such symptoms start to manifest. If they continue to occur despite the gluten abstinence, then it may be time to look at other factors, like proper body and head support and positions while sleeping.

Maryam Seifi
Harry said…
This was very helpful. I am having the exact same experience. In fact my sleep apnea machine was supposed to come a week ago before I went on vacation with my family. It did not come in time. But over the last week my wife kids and I have gone on a health and exercise thing. The main food piece is elimination of any bread. I have had heavy, serious snoring for the past two or so years. My wife and I sleep separately most nights. My snoring lightened on the first day of our trip and I have not snored for a week straight. Except for last night when I ate pizza with my son! Its why I looked up bread and snoring and found this article. I thought the issue was booze because I have a drink of wine every night-just one, and we have quit that as well. But last night I did not drink. I just had half a frozen microwave pizza. And my snoring returned!

Thank you for your post.