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How Excess Weight Affects Your Sleep

How Excess Weight Affects Your Sleep

Thanks to plentiful, pre-prepared, and delicious food — from frozen meals to bagged snacks to fast food drive-in fare — obesity is a plague in the United States and in the westernized world. In fact, obesity has been associated with increased risk for life-threatening diseases for more than 20 years.

Another plague in the United States is sleep deprivation. Almost half of adults claim to feel sleepy and unrested at least three days per week.

Unfortunately, these two plagues — excess weight and sleep deprivation — are linked in a vicious circle. Sleeping poorly raises your risk for gaining weight, while gaining weight raises your risk for poor sleep.

At Enrich Family Practice in Odessa, Texas, our expert nurse practitioners help you lose weight healthfully and permanently to improve the way you look, feel, and sleep. If you’re overweight and are having trouble sleeping, too, read on to find out how losing weight may help you on both scores.

Excess weight obstructs your airways

One of the most common reasons people lose sleep or don’t feel rested in the morning is a sleep-breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). An apnea is a pause, so if you have sleep apnea you have pauses in your breathing that can last for many seconds at a time. You may experience hundreds of apneas per night.

Anything that obstructs the flow of air to and from your lungs can cause OSA. For instance, you may have a deviated septum, which means that part of the bone and cartilage that separates your two nostrils may bend toward one side, narrowing the passageway.

But many people who suffer from OSA have obstructions related to their weight. In fact, nearly half of obese adults have OSA, and about half of those with OSA are overweight. For example, if you have a fatty neck, the weight from the excess fat can make it hard for air to flow freely through your mouth and nose while you sleep. 

A hallmark of sleep apnea is snoring loudly enough to awaken yourself or a partner. You probably have sleep apnea if you’ve ever awakened gagging or gasping for breath. 

In addition to losing weight, an oral appliance that keeps your airway open at night can relieve OSA symptoms. Or, you could benefit from a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that pushes fresh oxygen into your lungs while you sleep. 

Excess weight changes your “hunger hormones”

Whether you feel hungry or full after a meal isn’t just regulated by how much you eat or what you eat. It’s also regulated by hormones called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry. Leptin allows you to feel full and satisfied after you eat.

However, when you have excess adipose (i.e., fatty) tissue, many hormones fall out of balance, including ghrelin and leptin. Poor sleep also disrupts your hunger hormones.

If you have OSA, your levels of ghrelin rise. That means you feel hungrier than normal. Simultaneously, poor sleep suppresses leptin. Consequently, even after you eat a large meal, you may still feel hungry. You then eat more, gain more weight, sleep even more poorly, and repeat the cycle.

Losing weight restores your sleep

Healthy weight loss, though, helps you break the vicious cycle between excess weight and lack of sleep. If you lose just 10% of your body weight, your OSA can improve by up to 20%, so you sleep more restfully, breathe more freely, and produce the hormones you need to control your appetite.

As you lose weight, exercise becomes easier, which raises your daily activity level. Staying active during the day helps you sleep better at night.

If you’re ready to improve your figure, your health, and your sleep by losing weight, call us today at 432-200-9052. You can also reach us online to book a weight loss consultation or sleep study today. 

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