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Can Sleep Apnea Be Improved By Losing Weight

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects many individuals. It is characterized by breathing that stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. The condition can be caused by various factors, including obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. One of the most common risk factors for sleep apnea is excess body weight. In fact, research shows that losing weight can be an effective way to improve sleep apnea symptoms.


So, how exactly does weight loss help with sleep apnea? The answer lies in the way excess weight affects the body. When a person is overweight, fatty deposits can accumulate in the airways, causing them to narrow. This can make it difficult for air to flow freely, leading to breathing disruptions during sleep. By losing weight, individuals can reduce the amount of fatty tissue around their airways, thus allowing air to flow more easily and improving sleep apnea symptoms.


In addition to reducing fatty tissue in the airways, losing weight can also have other positive effects on sleep apnea. For example, weight loss can lead to a reduction in inflammation in the body. Inflammation can contribute to the development of sleep apnea, as it can cause the airways to become more rigid and less able to expand and contract during breathing. By reducing inflammation through weight loss, individuals may experience less severe sleep apnea symptoms.

A lot of research suggests that losing weight can help improve sleep apnea. In this article, we discuss the relationship between weight and sleep apnea and how losing weight can alleviate some of the symptoms

We also explore other methods for getting a good night's sleep if you suffer from sleep apnea and answer some frequently asked questions about treating this sleep disorder. 

Understanding the Link between Weight Loss and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. It is often characterized by loud snoring, gasping, and daytime grogginess. 


One of the leading causes of sleep apnea is excess weight around the neck, which can block the airway. It's so prevalent that weight loss is one of the top recommendations from many doctors and sleep specialists when it comes to treating sleep apnea. Losing weight can reduce the amount of tissue around the neck, which improves sleep apnea symptoms. 


That said, not all people who are overweight or obese will develop sleep apnea. And even if you do have sleep apnea, other factors can contribute to the condition.


diagram showing airways while sleeping


Other Sleep Apnea Causes

Sleep apnea has many causes, and body weight is just one of them. 


Other potential causes of sleep apnea include:

  • Anatomic abnormalities in the nose, mouth, or throat
  • Sleep position
  • Nasal congestion
  • Use of alcohol or sedatives
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Acid reflux
  • Heart conditions
  • Lung issues
  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Endocrine disorders, like thyroid disease and diabetes
  • Family history

Males are also more likely to develop sleep apnea than females.


Sleep Apnea Treatment In Addition to Weight Loss


If your sleep apnea is caused by one of the above-mentioned issues, losing weight may not be enough to eliminate the problem. However, in addition to weight loss, you can treat sleep apnea symptoms with other methods so that you can sleep through the night.


The tips below may decrease sleep problems due to sleep apnea.

  • Sleep on your side to keep the airway open. 
  • Get a new bed or pillow that suits your body type and sleeping position.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking to attempt to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. 
  • Use a CPAP machine or mouthguard at the recommendation of your physician to reduce or eliminate sleep apnea, snoring, and other sleep disorders.

Many sleep apnea sufferers use mouthguards or CPAP machines to help them sleep better. Mouthguards, like VitalSleep, can play a variety of roles. Mouthguards may be designed to prevent teeth grinding, relieve TMJ symptoms, and/or help support an unobstructed airway to prevent breathing interruptions during sleep. Many people also use mouthguards to reduce or eliminate snoring, a major symptom of sleep apnea. 


If you're struggling with sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about the best treatment options. There are many ways doctors can treat patients' sleep apnea, and the best choice for you depends on the underlying origin of your condition.


Why You Shouldn't Leave Sleep Apnea Untreated


If you suspect sleep apnea, it's crucial to seek treatment promptly. One fact many sufferers aren't aware of is that sleep apnea can lead to a variety of health problems.

Health problems with links to sleep apnea include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity
  • Memory problems 
  • Erectile dysfunction 
  • Sexual dysfunction in women

Treating sleep apnea with urgency can significantly reduce your risk of developing serious health conditions. A medical professional can help you give you more information and prescribe the treatment(s) you need to achieve a good night's sleep and improve your general health.


How do I get diagnosed with sleep apnea?


If you think you may have sleep apnea, the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with a doctor to discuss testing and a sleep study. To diagnose sleep apnea, you are typically monitored overnight in a sleep lab. While you sleep, the sleep specialists observe you to identify any apnea patterns and determine your condition's severity.


After a sleep study, your doctor can develop a treatment plan that is right for you. This may include lifestyle changes, like losing weight or quitting smoking. Sometimes, the doctor may also recommend a CPAP machine or an oral appliance, like a mouthguard.


heavy set man sleeping with cpap machine



FAQs Regarding Sleep Apnea and Weight Loss

Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about sleep apnea and weight loss.



Will my sleep apnea resolve after weight loss?

It depends. If your sleep apnea has roots in excess weight around the neck, then losing weight can do a lot to improve your condition. However, as mentioned above, if you have sleep apnea for another reason, such as an anatomic abnormality, then weight loss may not be enough to resolve it.

Studies have shown that a 10-15% weight loss can decrease the severity of sleep apnea by 30-50%. When you combine weight loss with additional treatments, like an oral device, you can create a treatment plan that will provide relief in the short term and results in the long termsleepcyclecenters.com


In many cases, weight loss doesn't entirely eliminate sleep apnea, but it can make a huge difference. And weight loss may be beneficial in other areas of fitness as well, including cardiovascular health. 



How much weight do I need to lose to help relieve sleep apnea symptoms? 

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when something obstructs the airways. Roughly 41% of obstructive sleep apnea cases in adults have links to excess weight. medicalnewstoday.com


The risk of OSA rises with the body mass index (BMI), a scale regularly used in the medical community to measure body fat. According to sleepfoundation.org, even a 10% weight gain is associated with a six-fold increase in OSA risk. 


That
said, there is no magic number as far as weight loss. Even a small amount of weight reduction can help to improve sleep apnea, and losing 10-15% can be enough to see results and significantly reduce your symptoms. The more weight you lose and the closer you are to a healthy BMI, the greater the improvement will likely be.



Will a good diet cure sleep apnea? 

As we mentioned above, in many cases, sleep apnea symptoms are eased with weight loss. However, there is no one-size-fits-all diet that will cure sleep apnea. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly is the best way to achieve long-term weight loss.



A Healthy But Satisfying Diet

A healthy, balanced diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. It's also important to have healthy fats in your diet, such as those found in nuts and olive oil.


When it comes to eating healthy, balance is key. That means you should eat plenty of good foods but also allow yourself the occasional indulgence. If you're trying to lose weight, it's crucial to find a healthy diet that you can stick with for the long term.



A Dedicated Exercise Routine 

Exercise helps you lose weight while enhancing your endurance. And when it comes to sleep apnea, exercise may make breathing easier in the long term, lessening the severity of your symptoms.


Many types of exercise can help with sleep apnea, including aerobic exercise, strength training, and yoga. Check with your physician before starting any new exercise regime, and when choosing an exercise routine, be sure to find one that you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle.


Proper nutrition and routine exercise make you healthier and lead to weight loss over time, as well as providing other benefits, like lower high blood pressure and risk of heart disease.


Can a new pillow also help with sleep apnea? 

Yes, a new pillow or even a new bed may alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea. If you're struggling with sleep apnea, it's crucial to find a comfortable sleeping position that gives you appropriate posture support. The right pillow can reinforce good posture, supporting your head and neck in a position that keeps your airway open while you sleep.


There are many different types of pillows on the market, and it's essential to find one that fits your needs. There are even pillows made to accommodate the hoses and masks of CPAP machines. If you're unsure where to start, discuss your needs with a sleep specialist or a medical professional. They will likely help you find a suitable pillow or make recommendations that will aid you in your search.

In addition to a new pillow, you may also want to consider a new bed. A supportive mattress that encourages a proper sleeping position facilitates airflow. 


Don't Live with Untreated Sleep Apnea

If you are living with untreated sleep apnea, it's time to make a change. Sleep apnea can have a serious impact on your health, including your cardiovascular health, mental health, and quality of life. 

Whether you've noticed signs of sleep apnea or have already been diagnosed and are struggling to get a good night's sleep, don't wait. Schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist or physician today to seek treatment. 

 

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