In recent years, scientists have been able to clearly identify a connection between the development of sleep apnea and weight gain and have shown that it creates a vicious cycle where one feeds the other. This can lead to a number of other debilitating illnesses that could potentially be life-threatening. So, what is the connection between sleep apnea and your weight? How can you break free of that cycle?
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the throat muscles are unable to keep the airway open, even though the body is trying to breathe. This causes a disruption in sleep and deprives the body of oxygen, which can lead to multiple illnesses including hypertension or high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and mood problems.
Weight Gain Can Lead to Sleep Apnea
While not everyone who is diagnosed with sleep apnea is overweight, increased weight gain can exacerbate and even lead to obstructive sleep apnea. This is because excessive weight gain leads to the accumulation of fat in the neck, which in turn leads to increased pressure on the airway. When the body is deprived of oxygen, it will wake itself up so that it can take in more air. This consistent rousing of the body from sleep causing significant disturbances can make you feel more tired during the day.
How Sleep Apnea Causes Weight Gain
Lack of regular sleep caused by obstructive sleep apnea can cause a variety of hormonal imbalances in the body that contribute to excessive weight gain.
- Leptin: When the body is sleep deprived, it leads to a reduction in a crucial hormone called leptin, which tells the body that it is full. When there is less leptin in the body, we tend to overeat because it takes longer for us to feel full.
- Insulin: Lack of sleep causes the body’s cells to become resistant to insulin, which is necessary for the body to process sugars in the blood and turn them into energy.
- Ghrelin: Studies have shown that when we are sleep deprived, the body produces more ghrelin, which is a hormone that stimulates our appetite.
The combination of increased sleep disturbances caused by weight gain, in turn, leads to more weight gain, and then you are lost in a vicious cycle.
Break Out of the Vicious Cycle
If you find yourself caught in the cycle of weight gain and increasing problems with your sleep, there are a few things that you can do to help break yourself out of it.
1. Maintain a healthy diet
Working with a health professional to find a nutrition plan that works for you is a great first step toward losing weight and sustaining that weight loss. A licensed nutritionist can help you create meal plans that will leave you feeling full and help you manage any problems with overeating that you may have. Eating a healthy diet on a schedule can then help you have more energy when you’re out and about and at the gym.
2. Exercise regularly
Incorporating regular exercise into your daily or weekly routine can give you more energy during the day, help you sleep better at night, and help you shed the pounds. Working out regularly, with or without a trainer, and losing the weight will reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea (and other weight-related illnesses) in the future.
3. Get into a healthy sleep routine
Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning can help your body fall into a rhythm that will allow you to reduce the number of sleep disturbances that you experience during the night. Reducing these disturbances will reduce your risk of sleep-related weight gain.
If You Think You Might Have Sleep Apnea, See Your Doctor
If you think you might have sleep apnea, the first thing to do is talk to your doctor. A doctor can assess your symptoms and order a sleep study that will help determine exactly what is going on. Sleep studies can now be done from the comfort of your own home and don’t require you to spend the night in a testing facility. These studies are often less uncomfortable than in-lab studies and give accurate results. At-home sleep tests happen over a period of one to three days, and your doctor can provide you with the testing equipment.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are a number of solutions that you can implement to help you get to sleep and stay asleep all night. One easy solution is a dental sleep appliance worn at night to keep the airway open by stabilizing the jaw in a more open position. This oral appliance is palm-sized and often less expensive than the commonly used CPAP (“continuous positive airway pressure”) machine. Resembling a mouth guard, the appliance gives you the benefits of treating sleep apnea, without all the extra equipment.
Advanced Sleep Solutions of Virginia makes the process of getting an intraoral appliance as easy as possible, with at-home sleep tests, online scheduling, and a secure telemedicine portal where you can communicate with sleep professionals privately and quickly.
Break the Cycle and Get Better Sleep
By treating your sleep apnea with an intraoral appliance and focusing on shedding the extra pounds and keeping them off, you can greatly improve your life. Breaking out of the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and associated weight gain can seem like an impossible task, but once you do, you’ll finally be able to get a good night’s rest and go on to live a happier, more energetic life.
Interested in getting an oral appliance therapy? Advanced Sleep Solutions of Virginia can help you have your own custom-fit oral sleep appliance to improve your sleep. You can schedule an appointment online or call us at (703) 689-2480.