Weight Gain and Sleep Apnea

Sleep disturbance is an extremely common and troubling condition. More and more people experience difficulties falling asleep and sleeping restfully through the night. While there are many potential reasons for sleep disturbance, one of the most common and troubling sleep disturbances is weight gain.

Weight gain leads to an increase in the adipose tissue of all of the body, including soft tissues around the neck and oropharynx. In addition, weight gain leads to larger mass of the trunk and abdomen which must move during ventilation, or breathing. Together, these changes that occur with weight gain lead to a progressively worsening condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

In obstructive sleep apnea many people snore and make loud noise during their breathing. But worse, people with sleep apnea will intermittently stop breathing altogether, and these pauses or periods of time in which no breathing is occurring are called “apnea” episodes.

Obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances are on the rise. An increasing number of people who have experienced even moderate weight gain, now often have a component of obstructive sleep apnea that they must also add to the other aspects of life which can disturb sleep: Namely, stress at work, family responsibilities, anxiety, depression, and many other life, health, psychological and social conditions.

Sleep disturbances are a serious problem because they interfere with the restfulness a person experiences. It is common for people to feel “tired all the time” because they are sleeping poorly. It makes life less enjoyable and it makes a person less effective in their work, and less successful in their social relationships.

Worse, these sleep disturbances are a serious health problem. Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with sudden death, arising from periods of apnea with fall in blood oxygen level and cardiac arrhythmias. It is also associated with severe fatigue and automobile accidents that occur as a result of falling asleep at the wheel.

So sleep disturbances and obstructive sleep apnea are not conditions to be taken lightly. They are one of the most serious adverse effects of weight gain and obesity.

But there are excellent solutions. They begin with effective medically supervised weight loss. In addition, a medically supervised program such as the state-of-the-art program at iMetabolic, can screen you for signs and symptoms of serious sleep disturbances such as obstructive sleep apnea. And formal testing is recommended to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea and begin treatment.

Treatments often consist of adjustments of lifestyle and medications as well as the potential for psychological counseling. With obstructive sleep apnea it may be necessary to use a type of positive airway pressure device, a nasal mask or a face mask that provides air and oxygen supplementation with positive forced pressure. It takes some getting used to, but this type of treatment is very effective at successfully treating obstructive sleep apnea, especially in combination with weight loss.

There are many studies demonstrating the effectiveness of weight loss in achieving improvement in sleep disturbances and especially in obstructive sleep apnea. Medically-guided weight loss programs can play a critical role in treating these important problems. In some cases, weight loss surgery is warranted to treat sleep disturbances and obstructive sleep apnea.

Dr. Kent Sasse is a nationally recognized weight loss expert and the author of the Sasse Guide to Outpatient Weight Loss Surgery. He is the founder of the iMetabolic Institute, and the Medical Director of the Western Bariatric Institute.

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