Approximately 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea. And while it isn’t typically life-threatening, it can definitely hurt your health.
The most common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is disruptive breathing caused by a narrow or completely blocked upper airway. You may have heard about a variety of sleep apnea treatments, and weight loss is one you’ve undoubtedly run across.
In this blog, we’ll go over the fundamentals of weight and sleep apnea and more:
- How excess weight affects sleep apnea
- Whether losing weight helps with sleep apnea
- Whether sleep apnea can actually make you gain weight
It’s a big issue, so we’ll tackle it one question at a time.
How Excess Weight Affects Sleep Apnea
An average of 41% of OSA cases have links to excess weight, so it makes sense that losing weight could help sleep apnea sufferers.
Excess weight can create fat deposits around a person’s neck. This is called “pharyngeal fat,” and depending on its exact location, it can block their upper airway while they lie down to sleep. Pharyngeal fat often causes snoring — one of the main symptoms of sleep apnea.
Additionally, excess fat around the abdomen can compress a person’s chest wall, which decreases lung volume and diminishes airflow to the lungs.
Will Losing Weight Help Sleep Apnea?
“Will sleep apnea go away if I lose weight?”
You may have wondered about this, and the answer is possibly, yes! Recent studies have shown that significant weight loss typically leads to less fat in the abdomen and tongue. Less fat reduces pressure on the upper airway and lung cavities, allowing for easier at-rest breathing.
Research recommends weight loss for most patients with sleep apnea, regardless of its severity. In fact, weight loss of only 10% to 15% can help reduce OSA symptoms by as much as 50% in moderately obese people.
Can Sleep Apnea Make You Gain Weight?
Gaining weight can cause sleep apnea, but can sleep apnea make you gain weight?
While not directly related, OSA symptoms can contribute to weight gain. For example, sleep apnea can cause insufficient sleep. People struggling with restless nights may be more susceptible to overeating, not having enough energy for exercise and therefore gaining weight.
Additionally, studies show sleep apnea is associated with a decrease in leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, and an increase in ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone. As a result, people with OSA may overeat more often.
How To Lose Weight With Sleep Apnea
For some people suffering from sleep apnea, losing weight may seem difficult due to lower energy levels and higher fatigue. If you’re wondering how to lose weight with sleep apnea, take things one step at a time.
It can be more beneficial to try to control your sleep apnea with other treatments, like CPAP machines, before you focus solely on losing weight.
First, see your doctor. Once you and your doctor have a plan in place for treating your sleep apnea, review your lifestyle and dietary choices.
Is there room for improvement when it comes to eating healthily and in moderation? Do you have time to squeeze in some exercise, even if it’s only a walk around the block? Small changes can really help you achieve key health goals.
[Related: What Is Snoring Actually?]
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