Weight Loss and Sleep Apnea

Kathleen Roberts
Daytime_Sleepiness.jpg
Daytime sleepiness can indicate sleep apnea

Weight loss and sleep apnea might seem like they have no relationship with each other, but in fact, they are very closely related. More than half of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight. In addition, as little as a ten percent reduction in weight can reduce occurrences of sleep apnea by 14 to 26 percent. Take a look at some more information concerning weight loss and sleep apnea.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

Did you know that 90 percent of people with sleep apnea don't even know they have this potentially life-threatening disorder? Usually, the first person to notice is the sleeping partner of the person experiencing episodes of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also occurs in children, although it tends to become worse with age. Fortunately, treatment for sleep apnea is usually very successful. Some common signs to watch for include:

  • Frequent cessation of breathing during sleep
  • Choking or gasping for breath while sleeping
  • Loud snoring
  • Suddenly waking up to breathe
  • Waking from sleep in a sweat
  • Waking up unrefreshed
  • Waking with a headache, sore throat or dry mouth
  • Frequent daytime sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Memory loss or learning problems
  • A short attention span
  • Using poor judgment
  • Depression
  • Personality changes

If you experience these symptoms, consult your doctor. After a complete physical examination, your doctor may recommend sleep tests to confirm your diagnosis.

Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that can contribute to sleep apnea, including:

  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Being male
  • An irregular sleep schedule
  • A narrowed airway, possibly due to a physical deformity
  • Snoring (this can be a cause or a result of sleep apnea)
  • Use of alcohol
  • Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Nasal congestion
  • A family history of sleep apnea

The most common risk factor for sleep apnea is being overweight. This is because excess weight can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea by adding extra weight in the neck area, sometimes causing a narrowed airway. (Adults with necks over 17 inches around are often at risk for obstructive apnea.) Weight loss for sleep apnea produces the most significant improvement in symptoms. Other methods of self-help include eliminating alcohol, tobacco and sedatives, regulating your sleep schedule, and sleeping on your side.

Weight Loss and Sleep Apnea

Weight loss to treat sleep apnea can create an interesting dilemma. While losing weight reduces the symptoms of sleep apnea, losing weight when you have sleep apnea can prove to be a difficult undertaking. The reason for this is simple: when you can't get enough sleep, you are too tired to exercise for weight loss.

Additionally, the hormones lepitin and ghrelin play a big role in weight loss and sleep apnea. Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and its job is to stimulate appetite. The role of lepitin, which is produced in fat cells, is just the opposite. It is responsible for sending signals to your brain to tell it that you are full.

If you do not get enough sleep, as is the case with people who have sleep apnea, the levels of lepitin produced by your body go down so you don't feel satisfied when you eat. If that isn't enough, levels of ghrelin go up causing you to feel hungrier. It would seem to be a catch 22.

Something as simple as eliminating caffeine or taking the television out of your bedroom may help you to sleep better. Talk to your doctor about aids to help you to get enough sleep while you begin a weight loss program.

Then you'll be ready to try different weight loss programs. Some people have reported successfully reducing apnea symptoms by following the McDougall Program. This program consists of a strict vegan vegetarian diet that is low-fat and starch-based with less than 10 percent of its calories being derived form fats. You can find out more by reading Dr. McDougall's book, The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health from Amazon.com.

Other diet programs can be helpful as well. Simply making changes to eat a healthy diet, utilizing portion control techniques, and following a moderate exercise program can work wonders for your health as well as helping with weight loss and sleep apnea.

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Weight Loss and Sleep Apnea