The Dangerous Cycle Between Sleep Apnea and Weight
Nobody enjoys being overweight. It can make us tired, sore, and unmotivated, among other adverse conditions. Genetics can encourage you to be overweight or obese, and losing weight is difficult. For those who suffer from sleep apnea, weight changes can be especially hard—and life-changing.
There is a significant correlation between sleep apnea and weight. Being overweight is a crucial risk factor because it can affect your ability to breathe during your sleep. Moreover, excess weight can bring about other health issues related to sleep apnea, including cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Sleep apnea can also cause you to gain weight. In a 2011 study, researchers from the International Journal of Obesity found that “sleep problems likely contribute to weight gain.” A 2013 study supporting these claims found that men who don’t sleep enough will add on extra weight.
Doesn’t it make sense to find a treatment that not only works but is also comfortable and non-intrusive?
The Power of Weight Loss
Weight loss is an excellent, long-lasting treatment for anyone who’s obese or overweight and has developed sleep apnea. In a 2009 study, published by Karolinska Institute in Sweden, researchers found that men saw a significant alleviation of sleep apnea symptoms when they positively altered their diets over nine weeks. The men in the study saw a 58% decrease in the severity of their symptoms.
Furthermore, weight loss reduces the risks of linked issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Weight loss is so essential that the American College of Physicians emphasizes it as the first treatment to try for sleep apnea relief.
Aerobic & Agreeable Exercise
Working out can be frustrating, boring, and sometimes just plain awkward. Furthermore, tracking your progress can get confusing, and if you don’t see the results that you expect, then it could demotivate you. However, exercise gives you energy, confidence, and it can help you sleep better.
Some of the best exercises are also the most enjoyable kind. In fact, the more enjoyable your activity is, the more likely you are to maintain a regimen. Working out hard in the gym for an hour can be unhealthy and counterproductive. Start with something more accessible, like aerobic exercise and find a workout that you enjoy.
If you like walking, try taking a stroll down a beach or through a mall. Do you play sports? Check out the local organizations and join a team. Some of our patients are interested in joining a gym with a super friendly staff that can help them lose weight—in this case, try Anytime Fitness. With 4,200 clubs worldwide (three in Farmington, NM alone), you can exercise how you want, when you want. No matter how you get your exercise, remember that you don’t need to go overboard. It’s amazing what an hour of aerobic exercise can do for you.
Additionally, remember what’s important to you—your health. As long as you focus on improving it, you can achieve a healthier, more comfortable, and more energized life.
Your Diet Makes a Difference
In one 2017 study, researchers found that lifestyle changes and weight loss are the cornerstones of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) relief. By combining exercise and diet, you’re creating a powerful tool that will make you healthier and stronger.
It’s important to mention that dieting doesn’t mean you have to hate what you’re eating. Researchers found that while diets, typically, can cause you to lose 5-10% of your weight in the first six months, this weight tends to return. So, instead of focusing on the exact diet, try monitoring what you eat, reducing your caloric intake, and combine diet with exercise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can weight loss cure sleep apnea?
While weight loss can drastically improve your sleep apnea symptoms, most sleep apnea cases can’t be permanently cured. However, weight loss has been shown to reduce symptoms for patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA causes you to stop breathing due to a blockage in the airway. In some cases, the weight of your neck narrows and blocks the airway during sleep. As a result, losing weight can help clear your airway and significantly improve your sleep apnea symptoms.
Before starting any weight loss program, make sure to talk with Dr. Schumacher about your goals and what impact weight loss may have on your symptoms.
Can people who aren’t overweight have sleep apnea?
Yes — while being overweight is a common underlying cause of sleep apnea, people of all sizes and ages can develop the disorder. That’s why it’s essential to take careful note of any symptoms you’re experiencing and undergo a sleep test if you think there’s even a chance you have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is affected by many factors besides weight. For example, a larger neck circumference or smaller airway due to anatomical development can be the cause of breathing problems. Maintaining a healthy body weight won’t guarantee that you don’t develop sleep apnea, but it should at least help you manage your symptoms.