Sleep apnea is one of the most common types of sleep disorders. When you think you’re fast asleep at night, you’re actually waking up sometimes up to 300 times per night to catch your breath and start breathing again. Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes obstructed. In a lot of cases, the obstruction is a result of excess weight in the neck. Not only can excess weight cause sleep apnea, but sleep apnea can also cause weight gain.

So what is the solution to this vicious cycle? Our sleep dentists at Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center are here to help.

man laying in bed on his side, snoring.

Sleep Apnea and Weight Loss – The Connection

Sleep apnea is one of the most common types of sleep disorders. When you think you’re fast asleep at night, you’re actually waking up sometimes up to 300 times per night to catch your breath and start breathing again. Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes obstructed. In a lot of cases, the obstruction is a result of excess weight in the neck. Not only can excess weight cause sleep apnea, but sleep apnea can also cause weight gain.

So what is the solution to this vicious cycle? Our sleep dentists at Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center are here to help.

How Excess Weight Can Cause Sleep Apnea

Woman falling asleep on exercise bike

Patients with sleep apnea, especially obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), often suffer from the condition due to obesity. Being overweight causes all sorts of problems within the body. As the amount of fat grows on the body, it can literally house itself anywhere. Sometimes fat and fat pockets will grow within the neck and throat area in addition to the tongue. When an overweight person goes to sleep, this excess weight and fat can cause the airway to collapse and block airflow. This can cause the patient to stop breathing while sleeping, better known as sleep apnea.

Additionally, as the fat accumulates in the abdomen, it can compress the chest wall and decrease total lung volume. As a result, the reduced lung capacity decreases the airflow. With less airflow, the upper airway is more prone to collapsing. As BMI increases, one is more likely to experience sleep apnea. A 10% weight gain can increase the risk for sleep apnea by 6 times

Sleep Apnea Can Cause Weight Gain

If you gain weight, you risk getting sleep apnea and if you have sleep apnea, you risk gaining weight. Untreated sleep apnea causes sleep deprivation which has a huge impact on your hormones, including hunger hormones. For instance, those who experience sleep deprivation have higher levels of ghrelin which is the appetite-stimulating hormone, and lower levels of leptin which is the appetite-suppressing hormone. In other words, the combination of these two will make you feel hungrier more often and crave more calorie-dense foods. With the change in hunger hormones combined with the low energy levels of having sleep apnea, it’s unlikely that a healthy diet and regular exercise routine are part of your life. As a result, weight gain is inevitable. 

Health Effects of Weight Gain and Sleep Apnea

The combination of excess weight and sleep apnea can result in deadly consequences. Those with sleep apnea and excess weight have an increased risk of the following health problems:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Type 2 Diabetes

If you want to reduce your risk of the issues listed above, it’s crucial to get sleep apnea treatment and lose weight.

How To Lose Weight With Sleep Apnea

For patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea along with obesity, naturally, a stride towards a cure would be weight loss. However, many patients find it hard to lose weight with sleep apnea. Those who suffer from sleep apnea of any type often wake up feeling unrested, drowsy, and an overall lack of energy. When you lack energy, you move less, you do less, and oftentimes you eat more. The combination of more food and less exercise generally leads to being overweight, which can then lead to more severe sleep apnea in some cases.

When treating sleep apnea, every patient is different. In the event of an overweight sleep apneic, treatment should be done on two fronts: weight loss and use of a proven sleep apnea treatment technology (oral appliances or CPAP). Without weight loss, treatment may not be as effective as required because the fat deposits in the throat counteract the sleep apnea treatment that hopes to open the airway. 

When sleep apneics are able to lose weight, they often find that they have much more energy and momentum. However, they typically can’t lose weight without the energy from the restful sleep that they get from undergoing proper sleep apnea treatment. The two therapies must be run in conjunction if they are to be successful.

After getting your body to a healthy weight with help from sleep apnea treatment, it’s possible that losing weight cures your sleep apnea. This isn’t always the case but it is for some patients. If that isn’t motivation to start treatment and a diet and exercise regimen, we don’t know what is!

Get Sleep Apnea Treatment in Omaha

If you suffer from sleep apnea, whether you’re overweight or not, our team is ready to provide you with comfortable sleep apnea treatment. We can also refer you to other professionals who can work with you to understand the importance of diet and exercise in order to make weight loss a reality. 

If you need a sleep apnea diagnosis, you can work with our Board Certified Sleep Physician to take a home sleep test. Once you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can move forward with a treatment plan.

Contact our Omaha office today at (402) 493-4175 for a sleep apnea treatment or diagnosis consultation!