Sleep Apnea and Weight: Symptoms and Risks

by CapstoneTrends

Sleep Apnea, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, affects Americans as a sleep disorder itself and the lost productivity. What is the relationship between apnea and your weight?

Most of us face sleeping disorders at some point in our lives. Difficulty in falling asleep, and the inability to sleep for a long time are a couple of the most common problems that Americans face. Other than these, sleep apnea -- or obstructive sleep apnea syndrome -- is also quite common. Both adults (men and women) and children are found to suffer from this condition.

The Risks of Sleep Apnea

In simple terms, sleep apnea can be described as temporary stoppage in breathing due to blockage in airways. These gaps occur repeatedly causing breaks in sleeping. Whenever you get interrupted sleep, you wake without feeling completed rested and can feel exhausted throughout the following day. This can lead you to feel irritated and sleepy during the daytime.

Sleep apnea can also be fatal if left untreated.  It is important that you seek medical help, and treat this condition. Sometimes apnea can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and even the possibility of a stroke. Of all the risk factors behind sleep apnea, doctors consider weight to be a major one.

Weight Gain and Sleep Apnea

Overweight people often have fat accumulated around their upper airway that blocks the air passage. During sleeping, they experience obstruction in breathing which leads to obstructive sleep apnea. Obese people are those most commonly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

Weight and sleeping disorders are related in a vicious cycle. Scientists have discovered a relation between lack of sleep and weight gain. Sleep-deprived people have higher chances of becoming obese. This is because their body secretes more of a hormone that activates appetite, and they end up eating more and becoming overweight. Overweight people who have sleep apnea find it difficult to sleep peacefully during the night and can feel irritated during the day. It is therefore crucial that you understand the symptoms of sleep apnea and try to to solve it or cure it. 

The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The symptoms of sleep apnea can be observed when people are sleeping. The soft tissue that is located at the back of the throat is in most relaxed position. This blocks the passage of air and people experience difficulty breathing.

The symptoms of sleep apnea are as follows:

  • Snoring and pauses in breathing with some associated gasping
  • Difficulty breathing while sleeping
  • Lying in unusual positions, and sleeping restlessly
  • Behavioral problems that arise due to lack of sleep

Treatment of sleep apnea 

In cases of mild sleep apnea, conservative treatment may help in reducing the symptoms. Behavioral modifications are enough to give people respite from sleep apnea.

For overweight people losing weight is the easiest way to treat sleep apnea. Research in this field confirms the same idea. Doctors have found that those patients who lose weight experience significant improvement in their condition. Doctors often advise their patients to lose about 10% of body weight. Studies in this field have proved that people who lost weight also experienced remission of their sleep apnea problems by around 50%.

If you are overweight and have sleep apnea, it is time that you make weight loss your goal to treat sleep apnea and lead a healthy life. Consult your doctor about treating your sleep apnea -- or obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

Updated: 01/25/2012, CapstoneTrends
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sheilamarie on 08/26/2012

I have known many people with this condition, too. The machine can do wonders, I'm told. I wish they had had those machines when my Dad was living.

humagaia on 05/22/2012

As a sufferer from SOSA - severe obstructive sleep apnoea - and one who uses a CPAP machine I can lay to rest FBR's worry about those sleeping alone - you cannot stop breathing, due to SA, until you die - your brain won't let you.
As for reducing weight - this is extremely difficult for an apnoeiac - you have to overcome what your brain (and hormones) are screaming at you - EAT!
To try to overcome SA I had rhinoplasty, uvuloplasty and the fatty tissue at the back of my throat lasered away - to no avail. My waking points (stopping breathing) were around 60 per hour (sounds ridiculous, I know), but once I received a CPAP that reduced to around 6-10.
Neck size is supposed to indicate a predisposition to SA - mine is 19.5 inches - built up over time from weight training and rugby.
How to tell if you are just sleepy or tired due to SA - SA tiredness is when your brain feels as though it has a black cloud in it and it feels as though it is covering your eyes as your upper eyelids descend (whilst you are still (just) awake).
Another give-away sign is everted eyelids together with conjunctivitis. Before getting the CPAP, the only way I could sleep was on my front. This meant my eyes rubbed into the pillow - thus causing eye irritation and forcing the eyelids to evert (bend back on themselves).
All-in-all SA is debilitating. One cannot think straight. It is like the effects of being awake for three days on end, but constantly. I had to give up my computer consultancy as I could not function properly.
Another effect of SA is that it could be a contributory factor in type II diabetes, from which I also suffer.

FloraBreenRobison on 05/02/2012

I know several people with sleep apnea-friends and family members. Most of them are overweight, although some aren't but have unusual sleeping patterns anyway. It is scary to think they could die from this. I worry especially about people who sleep alone as they don't have a partner to to wake them up from snoring and other breathing problems.

katiem2 on 01/24/2012

I have a friend who suffers from sleep apnea, she's gained a lot of weight recently, over a year, and now maybe she can realize the problem. Great details on sleep apnea and weight symptoms.

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