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Sleep Apnea and Obesity

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Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Obesity has spread like an epidemic in the last few decades and more than 65% of the world population is either obese or at the risk of becoming obese. While obesity is known to be responsible for several metabolic, physiological and psychological disorders; recent research has revealed that obesity and Sleep Apnea are much closely related than previously known.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder, wherein the patient stops breathing during sleep. This leads to sleep disturbances as body’s physiological responses try to restart breathing. The disruption in breathing results in decreased blood oxygen levels and can be caused by –

  • Malformed soft tissue of the mouth and throat
  • Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism
  • Allergies
  • Deviated Septum
  • Excess weight and obesity
  • Blockage of airways due to uncontrolled relaxation of tongue and throat muscles

How Obesity causes Sleep Apnea

25% of the adult population has Obstructive Sleep Apnea with varying levels of severity. Of these, if you consider particularly the obese population, the level of incidence of sleep apnea stands at an alarming 45%, nearly half of all obese people.

With every 10% weight gain, the risks of developing sleep apnea increases by six fold and with every one unit increase in BMI, the risk of sleep apnea increases by 14%. Men with a neck circumference of 17 inches or more and women with the neck circumference of 15 inches or more are considered at a high risk of sleep apnea. That irrefutable makes obesity a major cause for Sleep Apnea.

Excessive deposition of fatty tissue around the neck and loss of muscle tone in upper airway is inevitable in obese adults. These physiological changes cause obstruction in breathing during sleep. Most people write-off snoring and choking sounds during sleep as symptoms of heavy fatigue or poor sleep posture. In obese subjects, snoring is ignored even more and causes sleep apnea to remain undetected. In-fact, the seriousness of the issue has increased to the extent that even obese children are now considered at a risk of sleep apnea.

The vicious circle of Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Researchers have found that body weight reduction and developing superior muscle tone by pursuing a more active lifestyle can reduce the risk of Sleep Apnea in high-risk groups. In-fact, weight loss can even reduce the severity of Sleep Apnea related disturbances and breathing disruptions at night. However, it is easier said than done. Due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a person may suffer from chronic fatigue, nausea, headaches and even depression.

Such an individual can find it very difficult to engage in physical activities to achieve weight loss. Daytime sleepiness also prevents a sleep apnea patient to adopt a physically active lifestyle. In addition, sleep-eating or night-time eating is a symptom of advanced Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The patient may have no recollection of eating but will be unable to maintain a healthy diet for losing weight.

How Sleep Apnea treatment can help in obesity management

Although weight management is essential for alleviating sleep apnea condition, effective weight reduction can only be possible in Sleep Apnea patients if they get diagnosed in time and start treatment for Sleep Apnea. CPAP is a gold standard treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which helps in maintaining unobstructed air pressure during sleep. This in turn reduces sleep disturbances at night and lowers the incidence of morning headaches, nausea, chronic fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

Therefore, by beginning the treatment for Sleep Apnea, an obese adult can experience immediate surge in energy levels and feel capable to lead a healthier lifestyle. Other metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disorder, neurological conditions and psycho-somatic issues which are directly related to obesity can be dramatically reduced by taking CPAP treatment for Sleep Apnea. So don’t let yourself get caught in the vicious circle of Sleep Apnea and Obesity. Get a sleep study done and start leading a healthier life today itself.

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