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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Being Overweight

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Being Overweight

When you wake up after a good night’s sleep, still feeling foggy and tired, you may have a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. “Apnea” means “without breath” in ancient Greek. If you have sleep apnea, that means you’re sleeping “without breath.” 

An apnea is a pause in your airflow that can happen hundreds or even thousands of times while you sleep. Apneas last from a few seconds to up to a minute or more.

The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which some portion of your anatomy — such as your tongue or neck fat — blocks airflow through your airways at night. About 25% of adults and about 45% of obese adults have OSA.

At Enrich Family Practice in Odessa, Texas, nurse practitioners diagnose and treat all kinds of sleep apnea, including OSA. If you have OSA, you may also be overweight or obese. 

One recommendation to improve OSA is losing weight if you carry excess pounds. 

However, OSA may make that goal harder to reach. Here’s why.

Poor sleep changes your hormones

One of the most troublesome complications of OSA is that it disrupts the peacefulness and restfulness of your sleep. Instead of getting deep, restorative rest that allows your body to go into repair mode so you have energy in the morning, your body can’t actually rest. That’s why, when you wake up, you don’t feel rested: You’re not.

Lack of sleep disrupts your metabolism and unbalances your hormones. For example, sleep apnea increases the hormone ghrelin, which tells your body it’s hungry. If you have too much ghrelin, you may always feel hungry. 

Poor sleep also reduces the production of another hormone called leptin. Leptin tells your brain you’ve had enough to eat. If you don’t produce enough leptin, you may never feel full and satisfied, no matter how much you eat.

So, even though sleep apnea improves if you lose weight, it’s now much harder to do so. You may always feel hungry and never full, making it almost impossible to stick to a healthy diet.

But losing weight pays off

Though losing weight with OSA is harder, the payoff is bigger. It also pays to stabilize your weight. Conversely, gaining weight makes OSA worse. 

In fact, if you gain just 10% of your body weight, you increase your risk of going from mild to severe OSA by six times. The good news is that losing 10% of your body weight can improve your OSA by 20%.

How breathing better can help you lose weight

Before jumping onto the next fad diet or obsessing about the numbers on your scale, start thinking about your breathing. Correcting your OSA is an essential first step toward rebalancing your hormones, resetting your metabolism, and losing weight.

We may recommend an OSA therapy called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. The CPAP pushes warmed air into your airways all night long so that you can breathe deeply and restore your organs with plenty of oxygen. 

The CPAP machine lets you monitor your sleep to see your numbers improve. You feel the difference, too, once your body gets the deep, restful sleep you need.

Balance your hormones and get help

Once your breathing has stabilized at night, you may find it easier to lose weight. Losing weight can also help minimize your apneas.

If you still need help shedding those extra pounds, we may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has the bonus of speeding up your metabolism. In addition, you could benefit from medically supervised weight loss, including some medications that help you burn fat to take the weight off in general and the weight off your airways, specifically.

You may have sleep apnea if you’re overweight and feel unrested during the day. Contact us for a sleep apnea evaluation and treatment at 432-200-9052, or use our online form to book an ADHD evaluation today.

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