People who suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that causes breathing to stop and repeatedly start during sleep, are not uncommon. The most common kind of sleep apnea, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), can be brought on by an upper airway that is either too narrow or completely blocked.
When you think about it, it’s more or less like trying to breathe through a straw. Depending on the severity of their illness, people who have OSA may have as many as thirty pauses in their breathing while they sleep each night.
The medical community’s understanding of the problem is evolving, and with it comes the discovery of several significant connections between obesity and sleep apnea. Weight gain contributes to developing sleep apnea. Obesity also makes the condition’s symptoms worse and compound the damage it does to one’s health.
If you don’t get enough sleep and then gain weight, it’s a vicious cycle. It is promising because several studies have indicated that losing weight can help people with sleep apnea. You must be aware of this because sleep apnea and obesity can interact differently.
What is Sleep Apnea?
A disorder known as sleep apnea occurs when you repeatedly become unconscious and stop breathing while sleeping. The amount of time you go without breathing might range from a few minutes to a few seconds.
Even while it does not usually pose a threat to a person’s life, sleep apnea can substantially adversely affect their health and well-being. Studies have shown that persons who suffer from sleep apnea are significantly more likely to experience concerns such as heart attacks and other cardiovascular complications.
Considering the severity of this ailment, you are probably curious about the therapy choices at your disposal. For instance, you may have heard that reducing your body weight can treat or assist sleep apnea in some people.
How Weight Gain Contributes to Sleep Apnea
Although many health conditions increase the likelihood of having sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is most prevalent in those who are overweight or obese. The accumulation of fat in the pharynx, also known as pharyngeal fat, is one of the several forms of neck fat that can result from weight increase. A person’s pharyngeal fat can clog their upper airway when sleeping. The question is, why do so many individuals snore? A blocked airway causes air to be compressed as it tries to pass through.
If a person’s abdomen circumference develops due to their excess fat, this might cause the chest wall to get squeezed, which would reduce the volume of their lungs. Consequently, the capacity of the lungs decreases during sleep, which increases the risk of the upper airway collapsing.
The risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) continues to climb alongside an individual’s body mass index (BMI), which determines one’s level of body fat based on height and weight. Even a tiny increase in weight, of 10 per cent, is associated with a sixfold increase in the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
One of the less common causes of obstructive snoring is huge tonsils, blocking the airway during sleep. Other, less prevalent causes include structural qualities such as a broad neck or narrow throat, diabetes and thyroid disease, acid reflux, lung disease, and heart disease. Other causes include structural traits. On the other hand, it is estimated that 60–90 per cent of persons who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from obesity.
Can Weight Gain Be Linked to Sleep Apnea?
Even while obesity has been known for a long time to be a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), recent research has shown that the two disorders are connected. This is because not getting enough sleep is associated with a dip in leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, and a rise in ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, which may result in an increased desire for meals that are high in calories.
According to recently published research, not getting enough sleep is connected to overeating and obesity and a reduction in the amount of fat lost while on a calorie restriction.
People who have sleep apnea, for example, may have a higher risk of gaining weight compared to people who have the same body mass index (BMI) and overall level of health but do not have the disease. According to the findings of one study, adults who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) put on significantly more weight (approximately 16 pounds) in the year leading up to their OSA diagnosis than persons with the same BMI who did not have OSA.
Because of the drain on energy levels that it produces during sleep, sleep apnea sufferers may find it challenging to keep their weight at a healthy level. Daytime fatigue, which is brought on by an inability to get sufficient restorative sleep, is a common symptom of sleep apnea.
According to the findings of specific studies, other people experience more sleep apnea symptoms like being less active throughout the day due to their fatigue. People who are obese, who are more likely to have chest tightness and shortness of breath due to physical exercise, may be especially susceptible to this. If a person does not make any changes to their eating or exercise routines, they risk gaining weight.
Obesity and Sleep Apnea: Health Consequences
People who have sleep apnea place a substantial strain on their cardiovascular, metabolic, and respiratory systems when they do not get enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of this condition. Because obesity is known to increase the chance of developing heart disease, lung disease, and metabolic disorders, individuals who are already at risk may find this information to be particularly concerning.
Cardiovascular Health and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea has the potential to impact a variety of different parts of a person’s cardiovascular system. Whenever there is a pause in breathing, the oxygen supply in the body diminishes, which triggers a response known as the “fight or flight” response. When this reaction takes place, the individual sleeping will suddenly experience a spike in their blood pressure and heart rate, which will prompt them to wake up and reopen their airway.
The same thing keeps repeatedly happening through the course of the night. Atherosclerosis, which is plaque formation in the blood vessels, is associated with heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. This can lead to inflammation, leading to atherosclerosis, which is connected to these conditions.
Oxygen deprivation, elevated carbon dioxide, glucose levels, and insulin resistance are all consequences of untreated sleep apnea, impairing the nervous system’s ability to regulate heart rate and blood flow. In addition, untreated sleep apnea results in a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. As a consequence of this, sleep apnea has been related to the following 14 disorders that affect the heart, lungs, and metabolic system:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias
- Heart failure
- Stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, also known as “mini-strokes”)
- Coronary heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia)
Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome and Sleep Apnea
People with obese hypoventilation syndrome typically also have obstructive sleep apnea (OHS). In occupational hypercapnic suffocation (OHS), a person’s extra weight exerts pressure against the chest wall, compressing their lungs and hindering their capacity to take in sufficient amounts of air at regular intervals.
Even though up to 90 per cent of people with OSA also have OHS, this does not mean that everyone who has OSA also has OHS. The odds of developing OHS are proportional to one’s body mass index (BMI), with the prevalence reaching approximately half of all people whose BMI is greater than 50.
OHS has been related to similar health issues as sleep apnea, including high blood pressure and heart failure, and an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Patients with both conditions are at a significantly increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Those with severe OHS who also have OSA have a significantly increased risk of passing away.
Can Sleep Apnea be Treated by Losing Weight?
Like many other conditions, severe sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle and behavioral changes. This involves striving toward a healthy weight for most OSA sufferers. Fat deposits in the neck and tongue are reduced by weight loss and can reduce airflow. As a result, the airway is less prone to collapse during sleep due to increased lung volume and improved airway traction.
Many obstructive sleep apnea symptoms, including daytime sleepiness, might be reduced by losing weight. As a result, irritability and other neuropsychiatric dysfunctions significantly improve. Cardiovascular health, hypertension, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes are all on the mend, as is the quality of life. It is possible to lower the severity of OSA by 50 per cent with a 10% weight loss in moderately obese persons. Even though weight loss can significantly impact OSA, it seldom leads to a complete cure, and many patients still require different treatments.
Is the Way You Lose Weight Vital If You Have OSA?
Several OSA sufferers are curious about which of the various available options for losing weight is the most beneficial for their disease. The following are some of the most effective methods for shedding extra pounds:
- Changes in the diet
- Physical exertion has increased.
- Obesity is often treated with a combination of food and exercise therapies.
- Patients who are unable or unwilling to lose enough weight by diet and exercise may want to explore their options for weight loss surgery or pharmacological medication.
- The behavioral adjustment is just as successful in treating OSA as some weight-loss surgeries. Even if you don’t lose a lot of weight, exercise can help reduce the severity of OSA.
Regardless of the sleep apnea treatment approach, an improvement is inversely linked to a patient’s weight decrease. Because each patient’s circumstances and overall health are different, patients need to speak with their physicians about the many weight loss methods available to select the strategy that will be most effective for them.
Is it Possible to Lose Weight While Being Treated for Sleep Apnea?
OSA patients who can control their sleep apnea successfully may have an easier time reducing their weight, as indicated by the findings of some studies. Patients who suffered from obstructive sleep apnea had higher ghrelin levels (a hormone that stimulates appetite) than healthy people of the same weight. Still, after two days of therapy with CPAP, both groups had equal levels to those who did not suffer from OSA.
Studies have indicated that an increased risk of weight gain is connected with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the most effective treatment for sleep apnea, for a longer length of time.
On the other hand, there is a severe lack of awareness regarding the reasons that led to the establishment of this relationship. Due to the difficulties of treating both obesity and sleep apnea, patients who are overweight and have sleep apnea should not rely solely
on CPAP therapy or other apnea therapies as their only means of reducing their weight. Other methods of weight control should also be considered.
Don’t Put Off Seeking Help!
The prevention of injuries and improving one’s quality of life can benefit from early intervention in topics about sleep and weight. If it is treated with a suitable method, the prognosis for sleep apnea is exceptionally optimistic. You also have the power to take an active position in managing your weight. This is something that is entirely under your control. If you are concerned that you might have sleep apnea, you should contact your primary care physician as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. This will ensure that you receive the most effective treatment for your disease and an accurate diagnosis of what is ailing you.
Alternative Courses of Action
Those who suffer from sleep apnea must be informed that they can seek therapy from various sources. You might, for instance, decide to purchase a piece of equipment that not only helps you to breathe normally but also keeps your breathing from becoming constrained in any manner. This mask is either electrical or functions through a pump, contributing to its potentially high price tag.
You also can pursue the surgical route, which is something to keep in mind in the same vein. Take into consideration the fact that this option will only be available to a specific group of individuals. The answer to this question will be determined by the root cause of your sleep apnea and the specifics of your case. Your ENT will be able to provide you with guidance regarding whether or not this particular course of treatment is the most beneficial option for you.
As a result of the well-established connection between obesity and sleep apnea, a number of medical professionals now recommend dieting to their patients. Those who are obese and suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to improve if they lose weight. The use of a breathing machine, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, may be recommended by Dr. Snow in order to help you sleep better at night.
A professional weight loss program or weight loss surgery could help you break out of the cycle of obesity and sleep apnea that you’re currently in. Set up an initial consultation with a physician today by contacting or requesting an appointment online to see if weight reduction surgery or what methods are appropriate for you.