• Shruti GOCHHWAL

How Weight Loss May Improve Your Sleep And Reduce Apnea

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which a person experience disrupted breathing during their sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common form of sleep apnea and here disrupted breathing happens because of a narrow or blocked airway. It is like breathing through a straw.

Excess weight gain is a risk factor for sleep apnea, and excess body weight can worsen the symptoms and cause harmful health effects. Again insufficient sleep can lead to weight gain, making it a vicious cycle. One positive thing to consider is weight loss can improve sleep apnea. Learn how to lose weight so that you can sleep better.

How Excess Weight Is Linked To Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea

Excess weight in the abdomen, Credits: pixabay


Excess body weight can cause sleep apnea. Excess weight creates fat deposits in a person’s neck called pharyngeal fat. This pharyngeal fat tends to block a person’s upper airway during sleep when the airway is relaxed. That is why you notice snoring as a common symptom of sleep apnea.

Also, the increased abdominal girth from excess fat can compress a person’s chest wall, leading to a decrease in lung volume. This diminishes the airflow, making the upper respiratory tract more likely to collapse during sleep.  The risk of apnea increases due to increased body mass index. It is estimated that a 10% weight gain is linked to a six-fold increase in OSA risk.

The other less common causes of sleep apnea include enlarged tonsils, large neck or narrow throat, endocrine disorders like diabetes and thyroid disease, acid reflux, lung diseases, and heart problems. 60-90% of adults with OSA tend to be overweight.

Sleep Apnea Causing Weight Gain?

There is a reciprocal relationship between disturbed sleep and sleep apnea. Excess body weight is a risk factor for sleep apnea, and sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain as well.

Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in leptin production and an increase in ghrelin levels. This dysregulation causes increase cravings for calorie-dense foods.  Insufficient sleep leads to overeating and obesity. Interestingly people with sleep apnea are more susceptible to weight gain than others with similar BMI and without OSA.

How Weight Loss Can Help Cure Sleep Apnea?

Treatment of sleep apnea requires lifestyle and behavioral modifications.

One should work towards a healthy body weight. Weight loss can reduce fatty deposits in the neck and tongue. Weight loss can also reduce abdominal fat, which helps increase lung volume and improving airway traction, thereby making the airways less likely to collapse during sleep. Weight loss can also decrease snoring.

Losing weight can also reduce daytime sleepiness. There can be an overall improvement in cardiovascular health and a better quality of life can be achieved.

How Much Weight Loss Is Recommended?

A weight loss of 10-15% can reduce the severity of OSA by 50% in moderately obese patients. Weight loss can have significant improvements in OSA but does not lead to a complete cure, and additional treatments may be required.

The following are the weight loss methods recommended for sleep apnea. The first line of treatment for weight loss includes are diet and exercise interventions. If people fail to lose weight, pharmacological and surgical interventions are necessary.

  1. Dietary changes

  2. Increased physical activity

  3. Behavioral changes

  4. Medications

  5. Surgery

  6. CPAP

Dietary Changes

Consume lots of fruits and vegetables. Cut calories and processed foods. You can also consider involving in a structured weight loss program.

Increased Physical Activity

Sleep apnea

A man swimming, Credits: pixabay


Low-impact exercises like walking, biking, and swimming can be helpful. Low aerobic exercises and yoga may also work.

Behavioral Changes

Practice the habit of “mindful eating”. Make sure that your mood and stress levels are not determining your food intake.

Medications

In some cases, weight loss supplements and medications may be prescribed. Always have a proper medical consultation before using supplements as it can have negative effects on your body.

Surgery

Sleep apnea-Treatment

Doctors performing surgery, Credits: pixabay


In some cases, surgery may be required to reduce the capacity of the stomach. This restricts the amount of food consumption and can lead to weight loss.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway pressure)

CPAP is a mask or device that fits over the nose and mouth. It blows air into the airways to keep them open at night. However, some people may find it difficult to use this device.

Remember that weight loss should happen in a structured and controlled manner with appropriate medical supervision.

Take-Home Message

Weight loss can help you sleep better, enhance metabolism, and improve your cardiovascular health.

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