Banana lifeline for sleep apnoea sufferers

08:52, Apr 29 2009
SLEEP LIFELINE: The humble banana may prove to be a life saver for sleep apnoea sufferers, scientists believe.

The humble banana may prove to be a life saver for sleep apnoea sufferers, scientists believe.

Australian researchers have found downing an unconventional nightcap of a banana smoothie may help keep sufferers' throats open and reduce the risk of choking.

Preliminary results of a study from the University of New England in NSW show the phospholipids, or fatty acids, in bananas stay active in the mouth for six hours.

Phospholipids from other sources are known to keep the throat open, and the makeup of the molecules in bananas is similar.

Obstructive sleep apnoea sufferers experience recurrent choking when the throat closes during sleep.

It is a potentially life-threatening disorder, which affects about five percent of Australians.


Researchers gave eight healthy women a drink containing 130 grams of ripe banana and checked for active phospholipids at one, two, four and six hour intervals.

The results showed they were still present in the mouth after six hours, considered a satisfactory sleep period.

"Our initial findings suggest that bananas may offer a relatively cheap and tasty alternative as part of the treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnoea," researcher Dr Tom Van der Touw said.

The banana smoothie was most effective when consumed after teeth brushing, he said.

The research will now expand to examine the effects of consuming banana on obstructive sleep apnoea sufferers who rely on breathing machines.

Dr Van der Touw said drinking a banana smoothie, made with either milk or water, before bed could reduce the amount of air pressure the machines needed to use.

"You can imagine that having one of these masks on your partner would be a rather intrusive event night after night after night for couples," he said.

"We would see (drinking banana smoothies) as a potential adjunct to existing therapy and maybe when used in conjunction with another type of device ... might be potent enough to take at least some of these patients off sleep apnoea machines."

Dr Van der Touw will present the preliminary results at the annual scientific meeting of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand in Darwin this week.