What’s weight got to do with Sleep Apnea? A great deal: as it turns out, a high percentage of Sleep Apnea sufferers also are obese. On their own, sleep apnea and obesity are both serious health conditions plaguing people today. Neither is immune to age, race, ethnicity or gender. And both are linked to many of the same health threatening conditions. Maintaining or losing weight can be a motivator for numerous reasons and those with sleep apnea should be aware of the potential benefits.
“35 percent of Americans are obese” according to the Centers for Disease Control. To be considered obese, a person must have an excessive amount of weight that can have an adverse or negative effect on ones health. BMI isn’t the best way to gauge obesity so it’s worthwhile paying a visit to your doctor to get a good assessment of whether or not you are overweight. Those negative effects can include sleep apnea as well as, hypertension, heart attack, stroke and diabetes to name a few. Sleep apnea is also linked to all of these conditions so if you have both you are putting yourself in the cross-hairs of many serious ailments.
When a person has Sleep Apnea, the airway is vulnerable in the first place, and if additional weight, such as the increasing neck size of an obese or, overweight person is placed on that airway, it can add to the chances of the apnea episodes becoming more severe. With more weight on the airway, it takes more effort from the body to open the airway after an apnea event. Other interesting correlations between sleep and obesity are highlighted in a particular study. According the National Sleep Foundation, “A 1999 study by scientists at the University of Chicago found that building up a sleep debt over a matter of days can impair metabolism and disrupt hormone levels. After restricting 11 healthy young adults to four hours’ sleep for six nights, researchers found their ability to process glucose (sugar) in the blood had declined—in some cases to the level of diabetics.” Diabetes and Obesity are well known to go hand in hand so, the relationship between the three is obvious.
Which is Better for Sleep Apnea and Obesity: Weight Control or Diabetes Education?
Maintaining ones weight is important for obvious reasons but, another motivator would be that when reducing excess weight, the severity of sleep apnea can be positively affected. Sleep Journal posted a study called Long-Term Effect of Weight Loss on Obstructive Sleep Apnea Severity in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. The conclusion should give hope to anyone battling all three health issues:
Among obese adults with type 2 diabetes and OSA, intensive lifestyle intervention produced greater reductions in weight and apnea-hypopnea index over a 4 year period than did diabetes support and education. Beneficial effects of intensive lifestyle intervention on apneahypopnea index at 1 year persisted at 4 years, despite an almost 50% weight regain. Effect of intensive lifestyle intervention on apnea-hypopnea index was largely, but not entirely, due to weight loss.
Through guidance by your healthcare provider, it is entirely possible that weight loss could indeed, reduce the amount of pressurized air one would need compared to their current level. That said, each person is different and this would be determined by your sleep physician or during a sleep study.
Obesity affects more than one third of Americans today, and is considered a true epidemic. So while sleep apnea and obesity are closely associated with one another, the good news is that there are many therapies available, such as CPAP, that can have a positive affect on both. The benefit of treating your sleep apnea is that once you begin to get restful, restorative sleep you will potentially have more energy to undertake an exercise routine to help you lose weight. Losing those extra pounds, in turn, can help to lessen the severity of your sleep apnea.
About the Author:
Katy Norton resides in Oregon and works as a Supervisor over the Sleep Disorders Lab at St. Anthony Hospital. She has her Bachelors of Science degree in Community Health from Portland State University and is registered by the BRPT as an RPSGT, and as an RST by the ABSM. She is currently pursing her Masters of Public Health degree as well.
Katy has been working in the sleep ﬁeld for 9 years and loves what she does, especially educating patients and the public about sleep medicine.
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