Sleep Apnea and Weight Loss

Sleep Apnea and Weight LossSleep apnea is a chronic health condition in which a person’s ability to breath undergoes momentary lapses during sleep. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea.

Those who are overweight or obese are at a heightened risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea. In many situations, losing large amounts of weight can reduce the severity of sleep apnea and contribute to a better night’s rest. For this reason, many people experience relief from sleep apnea following weight loss surgery.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

It is common for the person who is suffering from sleep apnea to be unaware of their breathing trouble during sleep. One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is excessive snoring, and this is commonly noticed more intensely by one’s spouse or other members of the household.

Snoring during sleep apnea is different than typical snoring, as it is often excessively loud and chronic—so it will persist night after night for an extended period of time. The snoring is often coupled with a choking sound that the person with sleep apnea will make as they catch their breath following a lapse in breathing.

Other signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea develops when the airway becomes blocked or collapses, preventing proper airflow to the lungs. This causes breathing to become shallow, sometimes stopping altogether for several seconds at a time.  It is common for these short pauses in breathing to occur up to 30 times in the course of one hour.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Other factors that will increase your risk for the disease include:

  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Tobacco use
  • Enlarged tonsil
  • Medications or alcohol

If left untreated, sleep apnea will dramatically interfere with quality of life by interrupting sleeping patterns. Lack of sleep can increase your risk for weight gain, as well as other obesity related health problems like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

Because of chronic fatigue, persons with sleep apnea are even at an increased risk for car accidents.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is diagnosed through sleep studies, in which you will be invited to sleep in a controlled setting where breathing patterns and other sleep factors are monitored.

Those diagnosed with sleep apnea are often treated through a combination of lifestyle changes, medications and therapies. The most common form of therapy is with the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which delivers low-pressure air into the airway through a mask that is worn during sleep.

Losing weight can significantly reduce the severity of sleep apnea. Many people who undergo bariatric surgery find that their sleep apnea is dramatically improved as their weight is reduced.  In many cases, CPAP will be discontinued by your pulmonologist following a repeat sleep study. To the delight of those closest to you, snoring episodes may also resolve.