Many of us are accustomed to putting on a few pounds of winter weight. Fewer opportunities to exercise, combined with all the food-heavy holidays, plus a little bit of comfort eating to counter some seasonal moodiness has a tendency to leave us all a little heavier by the time spring rolls around (despite the attempt at a New Year’s Resolution or two). 

But that’s okay, because we’re used to burning it all off again over the summer. While the cycle might not be healthy, hopefully it’s not too unhealthy. But now that we’re deep into summer 2019, maybe you’re realizing that weight loss is not going as expected this year. Although there are many potential reasons for this, one serious possibility is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea could be making it hard for you to lose your winter weight. 

Man yawning at the gym. It's possible that his sleep apnea is limiting him from losing the extra weight he want to shed.

Reduced Exercise Ability

One of the biggest changes that leads to weight loss in the summer is that you’re getting more exercise. Walking, running, biking, hiking, fishing, volleyball, tennis–the list of fun ways to burn weight in the summer is seemingly endless. In the past, you might have let yourself indulge at family barbecues because you were burning more calories than you ate, thanks to all the activity. 

But one thing sleep apnea does is reduce your ability to exercise. Your lungs literally can’t take in as much air as they could when you didn’t have sleep apnea, so you become winded faster and get less exercise. In addition, you’re more tired if you’re not sleeping well at night, so you might be inclined to not even start exercising in the first place. 

Hormonal Changes

Another problem with sleep apnea is that it changes how your body messages you about food and how it deals with the food that you eat. 

When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, a hormone that tells your body to eat. In addition, it produces less leptin, a hormone that tells your body to stop eating. The combination is that your body is telling you to eat more food. 

In addition, this hormone imbalance can make your body more likely to store and less likely to burn the calories it consumes. 

Overall, the result is that you are more likely to eat more food and store more of that food as fat. This is a hard combination to overcome with casual activity. You need to make a plan and stick to it, but there’s a problem there, too. 

Less Willpower

Another problem with sleep apnea is that it can make it harder for us to stick to plans like dieting and exercise. When you’re not getting enough sleep, you are more likely to experience cravings, and less able to resist those cravings. 

Again, this is a recipe for adding more calories to your daily intake. You won’t be able to resist getting a second serving of those sweet-and-spicy ribs, marbled with fat. An extra pat of butter on my corn? Why not?

Fighting Fatigue with Food

And it isn’t just cravings that cause you to eat more. You might be trying to maintain your energy by eating more. Daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of sleep apnea, and when people feel tired during the day, they are likely to turn to sugary foods for a quick burst of energy. 

Or perhaps you make a Starbucks run. But those fancy drinks aren’t just full of caffeine, they’re full of sugar–as much as 20 teaspoons! That’s another way you might be making it hard for yourself to lose your winter weight. 

Treat Sleep Apnea to Support a Healthy Weight

If you have sleep apnea, it can contribute to weight gain. On the other hand, weight gain can make sleep apnea worse. This creates a cycle that can make it very hard to get back to your ideal weight this summer. 

While it’s common to recommend weight loss to treat sleep apnea, it’s often impossible to lose weight until you treat sleep apnea. Fortunately, there are comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatments that can pair nicely with your efforts to get healthy this summer. 

If you want to learn more about how to break the cycle of sleep apnea and weight gain, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at The Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha.