The connection between sleep apnea and weight loss is not widely recognized. “What does my weight have to do with my snoring?” You may ask. The fact is being overweight can actually cause sleep apnea, and this condition is deadly.
Sleep apnea and weight loss are inseparable. You cannot cure this sleep disorder without losing weight. Period. If you need a good reason to lose some kilos, this is it.
So how is sleep apnea related to your weight? When a person is carrying excess fat, it is spread evenly throughout the body. Fat accumulates around the neck area as well as on your hips and thighs and this is primarily what causes the problem.
The extra fat that accumulates around the neck region can potentially narrow the air passages in the throat making breathing more difficult. This can cause snoring, or in some cases, obstructive sleep apnea. The difference is that sleep apnea sufferers stop breathing for short periods several times a night. This leads to lack of oxygen, fragmented sleep and all the potential problems that go along with these.
To make things harder, sleep apnea and weight loss seem to reinforce one another. We know being overweight can lead to sleep apnea, but now it appears that sleep apnea can actually make it harder to lose weight. This is because your body over-produces a hormone called Ghrelin which can stimulate hunger and under-produces the hormone Leptin which gives you that satisfied feeling. This combination wreaks havoc on the best efforts to eat less and reinforces the vicious cycle.
This hormone imbalance not only causes excess hunger, but also changes the way the body deals with glucose causing higher blood sugar levels and increasing the risk of disease. Hardly seems fair does it?
What to do? How can you break free from this sleep apnea and weight loss cycle? I would suggest a dual approach.
The first thing is to be properly diagnosed to see if you do indeed have sleep apnea. This can be done by means of a PolySomnoGraph or PSG. If sleep apnea is indeed indicated, your doctor will probably recommend a CPAP machine. This will effectively help the sleep apnea, although it can take a little getting used to.
Then you’ll be able to better tackle the weight loss and this will also reduce the severity of the sleep apnea, perhaps enabling you to eventually do without the CPAP altogether.
To conclude, it is now proven that weight loss through a good diet together with physical exercise can reduce the severity of sleep apnea, and weight loss is considered to be the most effective means of treating mild or even moderate cases.