The Connection Between Obesity and Sleep Apnea

sleep apneaIt’s no secret that obesity can wreak havoc on your health. Outside of predispositions toward diseases like diabetes and hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea in adults is most commonly caused by excess weight. Sleep apnea is on the rise in the United States, and outside of causing poor sleep quality, it can put sufferers at risk for further health complications. Fortunately, there is often a treatment for sleep apnea that coincides with obesity: weight loss.

Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder, and even more so now that the majority of Americans are either overweight or obese. The disorder causes sufferers to stop breathing for periods of time in their sleep, which decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood. Sleep apnea is often accompanied by fatigue and sleepiness during the day, and loud, constant snoring at night. If you are both obese and experience any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.

Studies also show that sleep apnea and the associated fatigue that comes along with it can reduce your ability to live a healthy lifestyle. When you’re tired and cranky, you’re much less likely to go to the gym and cook dinner instead of pulling through a fast food drive-thru and watching Netflix on the couch all night. If you have a predisposition toward or diagnosis of diabetes, sleep apnea may also exacerbate this condition.

When you lose weight, you remove pressure on your airways and make it easier for your body to breathe. By reducing the weight of tissue surrounding the airways, the lungs are able to more effectively provide oxygen to the rest of your body. Even a small weight loss—10% of your body mass—can result in improved sleep apnea symptoms. For severe sufferers, a combination of weight loss and assisted breathing devices may be needed to fully treat the condition.

Not everyone who is obese has sleep apnea, but those with obesity are much more at risk of developing the disorder than people at a healthy weight. According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies show that bariatric surgery can have a positive effect on sleep apnea, often to the point of resolving it altogether. Data shows that bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea, and at least 80% of patients enter sleep apnea remission once they have lost enough weight.

If you experience sleep apnea and the associated side effects, Dr. Dirk may be able to help you get your restful nights back, along with a host of other positive benefits for your health. Even if you don’t think that sleep apnea is causing problems in your life, it is likely wreaking havoc that your body will pay for later.