Apnea is a sleep condition, characterized by the obstruction of air flow through the windpipe due to relaxed muscles as the back of the throat and nose. These are the same muscles that produce snoring, but when the condition worsens they can physically block air from going in and out of the lungs, causing the individual to gasp for air or even jolt awake feeling breathless. Scientists have, for many years, been documenting the close correlation between sleep apnea and weight gain. If an individual suffers from sleep apnea and their weight goes up, the condition is almost guaranteed to worsen. But why?
Contrary to popular belief, when a person gains weight I doesn’t just go on their bum, tum and thighs. We experience weight gain all over our bodies, which makes considerable changes for our internal bodies too. Weight gain around the neck causes extra pressure on the muscles and tissue inside the airway, which means it’s easier for the muscles to relax and close the airway completely. When the weight is lost there’s less weight closing them in when a person lies down, so the condition eases up again.
Of course, the obvious answer here is to eat more healthily and do more exercise, then the sleep apnea condition will get better. Unfortunately, there’s one huge problem with this plan of action: sleep apnea encourages weight gain. It’s been proven in clinical studies that those who don’t sleep well (due to insomnia, apnea or stress) have lower levels of a hormone that suppresses the appetite than those who get a good night’s sleep. Not only that, but they also have higher levels of a hormone that makes the appetite bigger too, so anyone trying to lose weight in order to get rid of their sleep apnea is going to have a hard time. Persistence seems to be the key here, and to fill yourself up with healthy foods rather than snacking on junk. A simple and well oiled rule, but one that’s particularly important if you don’t sleep well.
One answer to the weight gain sleep apnea link could be to use sleep apnea devices while you lose weight, so that you’re free from the condition, can get a good night’s sleep and don’t have such a large appetite. These devices can either be specially made dental retainers, which work by jutting the bottom jaw forward to open the airway, or a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device which pressurizes the air you breathe in and out so that the airway stays open. These can be difficult to get used to at first, but when you receive instruction on how to use them properly you should find that the results allow you to have a calm, uninterrupted and oxygen filled sleep.
With more energy and more of the right ‘weight loss hormones’ to help you with the condition, you should find success. We don’t recommend going on crash diets to get rid of your apnea condition, as this will leave you with loose skin and untoned muscles in the back of your throat; i.e. the condition may not get better at all.