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Here's How Your Weight Affects Your Sleep Apnea

You really never thought that your snoring affected your health until your doctor said you had a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Apneas are pauses in your breathing that can occur from dozens to hundreds of times a night, depriving your body and brain of oxygen for many seconds at a time. 

If you have sleep apnea, you may have trouble staying awake during the day, concentrating, and controlling your temper. Sleep apnea is also associated with a range of life-threatening conditions, including cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

About 45% of women and men who are obese also have OSA, and about half of people with OSA are overweight. That’s why Kimberly Bolling, MD, recommends that most of her sleep apnea patients in Bowie, Maryland, lose weight as part of their sleep apnea treatment.

Extra weight obstructs your airways

When you’re overweight or obese, the extra tissue around your head and neck makes the soft tissues in your mouth heavier, too. When you sleep, these soft tissues obstruct your airway, so you can’t breathe. 

If you have mild OSA and gain just 10% of your body weight, you’re six times more likely to develop more serious sleep apnea. However, if you lose 10% of your body weight, your OSA can improve by 20%.

Your OSA complicates weight loss

While it may seem to be a no-brainer that losing weight would improve your sleep apnea, sleep apnea actually sets in motion a cascade of events that makes it harder to lose weight. Not getting enough sleep upsets your metabolism and your hormonal balance. For instance, sleep apnea raises your levels of the hormone ghrelin, which tells your body to eat more.

Poor sleep also suppresses the production of the hormone leptin, which tells your brain when you’ve had enough to eat. If you don’t produce sufficient leptin, you may stay hungry even after you’ve eaten a full meal.

First, start breathing

Though the cycle between OSA and obesity may seem hard to break, Dr. Bolling is with you every step of the way. Since healthy weight loss should be gradual, she first recommends improving your OSA and getting higher-quality sleep by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or an oral appliance. 

If she recommends CPAP, you wear a special mask that’s attached to a machine. The machine pumps air into the mask and through your airways while you sleep, so you don’t snore or have apneas. 

An oral appliance is more comfortable than CPAP and looks like a mouthguard. The appliance holds your jaw forward so your tongue and other soft tissues don’t block your airways.

Next, shed the pounds

Once you’re breathing through the night, Dr. Bolling may recommend medically supervised weight loss. She designs a program based on your individual needs, and can help you lose as much as 20 pounds in 2-3 months. She may also recommend medications that boost your metabolism and supplements that supply the nutrients your body needs.

To start losing weight so you can effectively treat your sleep apnea and your quality of life, contact us at Kimberly Bolling, MD, today. Give us a call, send us a message here on our website, or request an appointment using our online scheduler.

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