Is There a Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Obesity?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is disrupted throughout the night. A person with sleep apnea may stop breathing for over a minute at a time, multiple times throughout the night, depriving the body and brain of necessary oxygen. There are two main types of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). A combination of the two, in which a person has both obstructive and central sleep apnea is called Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA). In cases of obstructive sleep apnea, obesity can be a major factor in causing or aggravating the apnea.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is partially or completely blocked while sleeping.  It is very common. The severity of obstructive sleep apnea is measured by the number of episodes per hour of sleep:

  • Mild OSA – 5-15 episodes per hour of sleep
  • Moderate OSA – 15-30 episodes per hour of sleep
  • Severe OSA – 30+ episodes per hour of sleep

How Does Obesity Impact Sleep Apnea?

Excess weight and obesity are often the culprit in obstructive sleep apnea in adults. Being overweight can cause you to have excess soft tissue in the mouth and throat, and when you go to sleep and relax your throat and tongue muscles, that excess tissue obstructs the airway. The unfortunate circumstance is that sleep apnea can also worsen the same ailments that obesity worsens – heart disease and blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and heart failure.

Will Losing Weight Help My Sleep Apnea?

Losing weight can help with sleep apnea symptoms. Even a small weight loss can have a big impact. But it can be difficult to lose weight when you are exhausted during the day from not sleeping well at night, so treating the obstructive sleep apnea may be the first step in being able to lose weight.

If you are suffering from sleep apnea or have struggled with using a CPAP, the first step is to schedule an appointment with a doctor who specializes in sleep medicine. We offer CPAP alternatives. Dr. Malhotra is a trusted sleep specialist in Connecticut, with extensive experience in treating patients suffering from all kinds of sleep disorders. Call (203) 653-3519 today, or schedule an appointment using this form.

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