Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that can seriously disrupt a person’s quality of life. This is because sufferers of sleep apnea are subject to blocked airways during the night, something which can interrupt sleep and cause excessive snoring. Most people with sleep apnea need to undergo long-term treatment for the disorder, which usually includes medications and the use of a CPAP machine.
Generally speaking, therefore, sleep apnea is something that most people would probably like to avoid. However, sleep apnea is complex and several factors play a role in a person’s chance of developing the condition. We know, for instance, that older adults are more likely to be at risk, particularly men. However, many other factors can raise the risk such as having small airways, suffering frequent nasal congestion, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. By far the most significant risk factor other than age, however, is carrying excess weight.
Why does weight gain raise the risk of developing sleep apnea?
According to The Sleep Foundation, around “half of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight”. This is clear evidence that carrying a few extra pounds can increase one’s chances of developing the condition.
The reason for the link is that weight gain can cause fat to accumulate around the neck region. This can make breathing more laborious and can cause airways to become blocked at regular intervals during the night. This can seriously disrupt sleep, for both sleep apnea sufferers and their partners.
What can overweight sleep apnea sufferers do to treat their condition?
For overweight people with sleep apnea, weight loss is often the first lifestyle-related treatment recommended by doctors. If a person loses around ten per cent of their body weight, they can significantly lessen the severity of the condition. Some even get rid of their symptoms altogether.
It is important to understand, however, that losing weight whilst suffering from the effects of sleep apnea can be very difficult. This is because poor sleep quality can wreak havoc with a person’s appetite-regulating hormones, causing them to ingest more calories than they otherwise would. Tiredness can also increase cravings for unhealthy foods such as sugary snacks. Furthermore, the sleepiness caused by sleep apnea can make it much more difficult to exercise, reducing the chances that the extra calories taken in will ever get burned off.
In many ways, the link between sleep apnea and weight gain represents a cruel cycle. The more tired you are, the more caffeinated beverages and sugary treats you are likely to consume, both of which can further contribute to poor sleep. Lack of exercise can also interrupt sleep cycles.
So what can be done?
Fortunately, there are plenty of treatments out there to help sleep apnea sufferers lose weight and regain control of their sleep patterns. The most popular treatment tends to be a CPAP machine, a medical device that sleep apnea sufferers can wear throughout the night to keep their airway open. However, for patients who are intolerant to CPAP or searching for a safe alternative, a dental sleep device made by a Board Certified Dentist can be an effective option. Taking up this kind of treatment is important not just for their mental health and overall quality of life, but for their long-term physical health. Obesity, after all, is responsible for a host of medical issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.
Are you a sleep apnea sufferer looking for more information? Get in touch with us today!
A MESSAGE FROM DR. AMY HARTSFIELD:
At TMJ & Sleep Solutions of Alabama, our mission is to provide personalized care to restore quality of life, one patient at a time. If you are experiencing issues with sleep, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment!