Way back in the mists of time (a decade ago, in 2005), I posted my snoring cure. It’s really quite simple – fish oil before bed massively reduces snoring. Take 2 or 3 caps, and make sure it’s fish oil and not krill oil or plant-based Omega-3 – because that doesn’t work; only the fish-based one seems to have the right effect.
I discovered it around 2000 when I was working at Sierra and passed it on to a few friends…
For most of them, it worked great. (When I was at Midway, one friend didn’t have any luck with it at all, so out of a sample size of about 10 people, that’s a 90% hit rate). One friend described it as “feeling like his sinuses were expanding inside his head”.
Anyway, the cool thing is that it looks like in 2011, someone actually officially and scientifically tried the experiment – and it bears out my observations. Yay!
If you want to check out the paper, you can find it here:
Membrane Level of Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid Is Associated with Severity of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
James B. Ladesich, M.D., James V. Pottala, M.S., Ann Romaker, M.D., F.A.A.S.M., and William S. Harris, Ph.D
J Clin Sleep Med. Aug 15, 2011; 7(4): 391–396.
The cool thing about this paper is that it fills in one of the cracks in the argument about fish oil and heart health. A number of recent meta-analysis studies showed that it doesn’t seem to do much for cardiac disease. (Which frankly doesn’t surprise me; I expect avoiding refined carbs, and taking N-Acetyl Cysteine, Valcyclovir, L-Lysine and Pomegranate juice to do way more – including arresting or possibly even reversing atherosclerosis). But what it does go a long way towards explaining is why people might have thought that it did help.
Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure. If you take Omega-3 fish oils and it helps with sleep apnea, it’s pretty clear that it’ll help with that particular form of heart failure.
I’ve been wired up like this before. It’s kinda cool, kind of weird, and you get really lousy sleep – which makes me ponder exactly how effective sleep studies are if making people sleep worse is part of the test. (This isn’t me; this guy hangs out on Wikipedia)
If someone wants to give a real double-blind randomized study a short, here’s how you want to do it:
- Make sure that they’re using Omega-3 oils from fish. I think NatureMade was the brand I originally tried with, although this was over a decade ago. Whatever you do, don’t bother with the plant or krill-based stuff, and in the initial study don’t over purify it. Filter out any heavy metals, but don’t create a concoction in a lab in case the effects are also down to other compounds in the fish oil.
- In a related note, (and I’m looking at you, ORIGIN study, who may have messed this part up completely), don’t use Olive Oil as your placebo. That’s ridiculous; Olive Oil has been shown to improve cardiovascular health in a number of studies. It’s not a placebo if it’s active in the arena you’re studying. That’s like studying dehydration and doing a double-blind study between the effects of Gatorade on dehydration vs. a placebo which is coconut water mixed with kool-aid powder.
- Don’t use ethyl-ester forms of Omega-3s. Use the triglyceride form. If you’re using the ethyl-ester form, then you’re massively over purifying and refining it anyway. The ethyl-ester form isn’t what most studies have been done on, and might not have the same efficacy as the triglyceride form. What’s more, you’re likely not inluding any other active compounds which might be doing this that aren’t EPA and DHA. Ethyl-ester PUFAs are great if you’re selling Omacor and have a patent on it. They’re not necessarily going to give the same effect.
- If you really really want to use them? Go ahead. But do the study with regular good old fashioned triglyceride-form Omega-3s from fish-oil as well.
- It should be high in DHA.
- It should be stabilized with tocopherol (vitamin E) to prevent rancidity. I don’t think I’ve seen a brand that wasn’t, but some studies have tried doing studies using “fish oil” where what they actually were testing was cod liver oil, or unstabilized fish oil. That’s ridiculous.
- Dosage should be 3000mg (3 capsules) with water, at bed time.
- Make sure you identify which participants have sleep apnea, versus which don’t. I don’t care how you do it – even asking “do you snore loudly” would be fine. But you need that data.
If you do the study, please let me know your findings. I’ll bet you get way better results, but the effect will only be pronounced in patients who also have sleep apnea.
Along similar lines, if you’re doing those studies, please, DNA sequence your participants. Trials without sequencing information on participants are next to useless so far as I can tell – I’ve seen studies on the heart problems/benefits caused by caffeine that didn’t take into account if someone was a fast-caffeine metabolizer or not, which made them a total waste of time.
And hey, if you snore, give it a shot. If nothing else, it might help you get a better night’s sleep.
Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.
The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).