How Weight Affects Sleep Apnea
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Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder in which people experience disrupted breathing while they are sleeping. In obstructive sleep apnea , the most common type of sleep apnea, disruptive breathing occurs because of a narrow or blocked upper airway. Its similar to breathing through a straw. Those with severe OSA may have upwards of 30 breathing disruptions per night.
As the medical community learns more about sleep apnea, several important links to excess body weight are emerging. Not only can excess weight cause sleep apnea, but it can worsen the symptoms and exacerbate its detrimental health effects. Insufficient sleep may also lead to weight gain, making it a vicious cycle. Encouragingly, many studies show that weight loss improves sleep apnea. If you are struggling with sleep apnea or excess weight, its important to understand the complex interactions between the two conditions.
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The Importance Of Weight Loss
The link between excess weight and sleep apnea is well established. People who are overweight are more likely to have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep.
Though losing weight is easier said than done, it can yield real results. If overweight and obese people lose weight, it would make both sleep apnea and other health problems go away. Losing just 10% of body weight can have a big effect on sleep apnea symptoms. In some cases, losing a significant amount of weight can even cure the condition.
Can Losing Weight Cure Sleep Apnea
If sleep apnea and weight have such a close relationship, one has to wonder if losing weight can cure sleep apnea.
Losing weight certainly can lead to better sleep if being overweight is the problem to start with. Most OSA sufferers will experience better sleep if they lose weight. The fatty deposits around their neck, the greater abdominal girth, and the tonsil issues will all decrease with weight loss.
Plus, when a person loses weight, they experience more energy overall during the day. They can establish and maintain an active lifestyle without the constant fatigue.
Some sleep apnea sufferers, however, will need more than just a diet to experience complete relief.
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Health Effects Of Sleep Apnea And Excess Weight
Deprived of sufficient, quality rest, sleep apnea sufferers experience significant stress on their cardiovascular, metabolic, and pulmonary systems. This may be particularly worrisome for obese people, because obesity can also elevate the risk of heart, lung, and metabolic problems, potentially compounding their health concerns.
Can Skinny Women Get Sleep Apnea
While obesity is one of the strongest risk factors, studies have found that as many as 20 percent of adults with obstructive sleep apnea are non-obese and 5 percent of non-obese women have moderate to severe symptoms.
If you suspect sleep apnea, your options include sleep hygiene, life style changes, stress management, exercise, diagnosis and treatment, sleep counseling, and checking for other health issues linked to sleep apnea.
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Low Energy And Chronic Fatigue
Even one night of poor sleep can leave people feeling like zombies shuffling through the day. So imagine the impact that monthsor even yearsof restless sleep can have on energy levels.
Similar to a phones Battery-Saver Mode, when experiencing lower energy levels, we conserve the little energy we have by performing only essential tasks and avoiding the non-essential ones . This can lead to eating unhealthy foods out of convenience and sitting still for longer periods of time.
Tired Sleep Apnea Now Recognized In Thin Women
Sleep is one of our most important self care regimens. Did you know that the health of your airway can disrupt the quality of your sleep? Poor airway health is now being recognized as a root cause for many chronic ailments. The American Dental Associations policy on dentistrys role in sleep related breathing disorders was recently approved. Poor airway health affects all age groups from infants to adults. Children and infants are more susceptible to the negative effects of poor sleep as their brains develop. While obese older men are most likely at risk, this can also be present in young adults, teens and particularly slender women with smaller airways. This can leave you with constantly low levels of energy, memory problems and difficulty concentrating. For more insight on addressing root causes of cognitive impairment like this, join PIM on 1/24 for Prime Cognition: Optimize Your Brain Health.
What are the signs?
Interested in connecting with PIM? Register for one of our upcoming events – FREE Group Classes at Cabrini College OR Nutrition Classes with our very own Rachel Hershberger, MS, CNS, LDN, tickets just $45 at sign up .
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Diagnosing And Treating Sleep Apnea For Better Health
Its important to treat sleep apnea, because it can have long-term consequences for your health. While there have been some high-profile deaths linked to sleep apneasuch as with Judge Antonin Scalia Jun says that the true risk is from damage done over time.
Obstructive sleep apnea can range from mild to severe, based on a measurement system called the apnea-hypopnea index . The AHI measures the number of breathing pauses that you experience per hour that you sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is classified by severity:
- Severe obstructive sleep apnea means that your AHI is greater than 30
- Moderate obstructive sleep apnea means that your AHI is between 15 and 30
- Mild obstructive sleep apnea means that your AHI is between 5 and 15
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We provide high quality, individualized care for patients of all ages where you feel most comfortable your home or community. Our services and equipment are designed to help you regain and retain a level of independence.
Whether or not you need treatment for sleep apnea depends on its severity, whether or not you have symptoms such as sleepiness and other health conditions. For example, if you have risk factors for heart disease, your doctor might opt to treat you even for mild sleep apnea. On the other hand, if you have a severe case of sleep apnea, your doctor might insist on treatment even if youre not sleepy.
Not very relaxing, right? Luckily, its treatable.
C Any Evidence Sleeping Upright With Sleep Apnea Can Help
Can sleeping upright in a chair really help sleep apnea?
And what about sleeping upright in a bed?
This strategy hasnt been as well studied as side sleeping, but there is research that suggests that elevating your head can help reduce OSA symptoms.
In the 80s, researchers did a small clinical study with 13 male sleep apnea patients. In half the patients, symptoms went away if they slept at a 60-degree angle.
These turned out to be people who were more obese.
More recently, Brazilian researchers did a bigger clinical study with 52 middle-age and overweight patients. Unlike the earlier study, they included both males and females.
They had them sleep in a bed designed to partially elevate their head at a comfortable angle .
They found that this simple setup was able to reduce the severity of sleep apnea by 30 percent and worked best for people with mild to moderate OSA.
So, while no one has done a chair sleep apnea study, theres good evidence that elevating your head may help improve your sleep.
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Losing Weight Decreases Severity Of Sleep Apnea
The connection between obstructive sleep apnea and weight is well established. In fact, being overweight or obese is considered one of the primary risk factors of sleep apnea. This is because when extra tissue accumulates around the upper airway, it can change the shape of the airway or the weight can make the throat more likely to collapse during sleep.
About half of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight1.
Therefore, its not surprising that studies consistently show that weight loss reduces the severity of sleep apnea. Not only does it reduce the number of apneas that occur, but it also improves the quality of patients sleep.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
For moderate to severe sleep apnea, the most common treatment is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure or automatic positive airway pressure device. These splint the personâs airway open during sleep by means of pressurized air. The person typically wears a plastic facial mask, which is connected by a flexible tube to a small bedside CPAP machine.
Although CPAP therapy is effective in reducing apneas and less expensive than other treatments, some people find it uncomfortable. Some complain of feeling trapped, having chest discomfort, and skin or nose irritation. Other side effects may include dry mouth, dry nose, nosebleeds, sore lips and gums.
Whether or not it decreases the risk of death or heart disease is controversial with some reviews finding benefit and others not. This variation across studies might be driven by low rates of complianceanalyses of those who use CPAP for at least four hours a night suggests a decrease in cardiovascular events.
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How Can Snoring Make You Overweight
Everyone knows that overeating and under-exercising makes us overweight. What is less well known is that snoring itself can facilitate weight gain.
This is because sleep deprivation caused by snoring or sleep apnea changes our habits and our appetite.
A classic example of this is someone who is tired during the day due to a poor nights sleep, drinking high-sugar soft drinks to stay alert.
Poor sleep saps our energy. We cant always catch up on sleep when we like, so instead we fill that energy void with food, particularly foods with plenty of sugar. Here, we think we are hungry but are actually just sleep deprived.
Under-exercising is a symptom of the fatigue and tiredness that come from bad sleep. If you arent sleeping properly, how ready for exercise do you really feel?
This is the snoring-obesity cycle.
Snorers and their partners lose sleep, so are less inclined to exercise and more inclined to eat lots of carbohydrate-rich foods. This spells weight gain. More weight means more snoring. More snoring produces worse sleep and more exhaustion, which in turn is mitigated by overeating and under-exercising .
Sleep Apnea: Symptoms Causes And Treatments
ByRachael Rettnerpublished 22 November 17
Sleep apnea is a condition in which people experience pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, around 22 million Americans may suffer from sleep apnea and around 80 percent of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea goes undiagnosed.
These pauses in breathing, called apneas, can occur as often as 30 or more times per hour, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Sleep apnea may result in poor sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness. Between 12 and 18 million U.S. adults have sleep apnea, the NHLBI says.
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Weight Loss Can Cure Mild Sleep Apnea
One study2 monitored the sleep quality of 72 overweight patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea . The patients changed to a low-calorie diet and received lifestyle counseling, which resulted in a significant decrease in their BMIs. After losing weight, the subjects mean number of apnea events per hour decreased significantly. Post weight-loss, the number of patients with sleep apnea decreased by 75%.
Additionally, the results of this study were maintained for a one-year follow-up.
Sleep Apnea And Cardiovascular Health
Sleep apnea affects a persons entire cardiovascular system in several ways. Each time a breathing lapse occurs, the bodys oxygen supply drops, triggering a fight or flight response. When this response occurs, blood pressure surges and heart rate increases, causing the sleeper to awaken and reopen their airway. This cycle repeats throughout the night. The cyclic rising and falling blood oxygen levels can cause inflammation, which in turn may lead to atherosclerosis which is associated with heart attacks, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Sleep apnea also elevates carbon dioxide and glucose levels in the blood, disrupts the part of the nervous system that controls heartbeat and blood flow, increases insulin resistance, and alters the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As a result, sleep apnea is associated with the following heart, lung, and metabolic problems, among others:
- Atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias
- Heart failure
- Stroke and transient ischemic attacks
- Coronary heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
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Who Gets Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs in about 25% of men and nearly 10% of women. Sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, including babies and children and particularly people over the age of 50 and those who are overweight.
Certain physical traits and clinical features are common in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. These include excessive weight, large neck and structural abnormalities reducing the diameter of the upper airway, such as nasal obstruction, a low-hanging soft palate, enlarged tonsils or a small jaw with an overbite.
How Does Gaining Weight Affect Sleep Apnea
Not everyone who is overweight or obese will develop sleep apnea. However, being overweight and/or gaining weight does increase your risk of developing the disorder.
When the muscles in your neck relax during sleep, they no longer support the weight of the tissue on top of them. The more weight pressing down on the airway, the more likely it is to collapse. Because of this, people who carry a lot of weight around their neck and chest are at a much higher risk of OSA.
If you gain even 10% of your weight your risk for developing sleep apnea gets multiplied by six.
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Will Treating Sleep Apnea Help You Lose Weight
Evidence suggests that OSA patients who effectively manage their sleep apnea may find it easier to lose weight. In one study, ghrelin levels were higher in OSA patients than in people without OSA of the same body mass but fell to comparable levels after two days of using CPAP treatment.
Conflictingly, long-term use of CPAP, the most effective sleep apnea treatment, has been associated with weight gain in some studies. However, the reasons for this association are unclear, and more research is needed. Given the complexity of weight and sleep apnea treatment, overweight patients should not solely rely on CPAP therapy or apnea treatments as their sole means of weight control.
Weight Loss Breathing Devices Still Best For Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Experts continue to emphasize the importance of lifestyle modificationsespecially weight lossfor treating obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which the airway becomes blocked during sleep, interrupting breathingsometimes dozens of times during a single night. Having obstructive sleep apnea puts you at risk for a number of other conditions, including high blood pressure and stroke.
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Osa In The Absence Of Obesity Is Common
Recent community sample data from more than 1,500 individuals in the Wisconsin sleep cohort indicate that, among the nonobese, almost 5% of men and 1% of women aged 3049 y have moderate to severe OSA. These figures increase to 14% and 5% of nonobese men and women aged 5070 y. Similarly, recent polysomnographic data from a community sample of more than 2,000 individuals aged 4085 y in Switzerland show very high rates of moderate to severe OSA . This is despite the cohort having a mean BMI of only 25.6 kg/m2.
PSG data collected from 18 sleep centers across the US from 2004 to 2008 indicate that at least one in five patients who underwent a diagnostic sleep study for excessive daytime sleepiness with confirmed OSA had a BMI < 27 kg/m2. Over half of these patients had moderate to severe OSA. The findings of the current study indicating that 25% of OSA patients have a BMI within the normal range and approximately 50% are not obese are consistent with studies by Mortimore and colleagues and other clinical referral cohorts., Thus, OSA is common without obesity in the general community and in sleep clinics.
Central Sleep Apnea Causes
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. This results in shortness of breath or difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep. Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea but shares some of the same causes and risk factors.
Common central sleep apnea causes include:
- Being older
- Frequent use of opioids such as methadone
- Heart disorders, including congestive heart failure
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Children Rarely Experience Sleep Apnea
Dr. Craig Canapari, a pediatrician at Yale-New Haven Childrens Hospital in New Haven, Conn., specializing in the care of children with breathing and sleep problems, notes on his website, One third of obese children will suffer from obstructive sleep apnea , compared with 2 to 4 percent of non-obese children. Fifty percent of obese, snoring children will have OSA. It is not clear why this is. It may be because the upper airway is smaller and thus easier to collapse. Or, as we have shown in our research, fat in the belly is more likely to be associated with OSA, perhaps by pushing up on the lungs and making them smaller.
No matter which way you slice it, children do get sleep apnea.
Canapari notes that long ago, more often than not, it was children with large tonsils that were diagnosed with OSA and treated with the removal of their tonsils and adenoids. Nowadays, however, the tides have shifted with the most recent data from 20103 showing, 16.9 percent of children ages 2-19 years of age were obese 9.5 percent of infants and toddlers were obese. Meaning no longer are we seeing that thin child with the big tonsils as the main type of child-aged OSA sufferer, instead were seeing more adult-like OSA symptoms in obese children.
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