The relationship between your body weight and sleep disorders like sleep apnea is a complicated one: the most apt way to describe it is to say it’s a vicious cycle. Being overweight is a key risk factor for sleep disorders like sleep apnea, because the fatty tissues in a thicker neck tend to collapse on the airway during sleeping, causing loud, consistent snoring and breathing pauses. A Study that was published by researchers at the University of Helsinki in the International Journal of Obesity found a strong correlation between being overweight and sleep disorders after studying a sample of 5,700 middle-aged women. This is just one example of the increasing volume of literature on the relationship between sleep apnea and weight gain, which, as it turns out, is anything but a one-way street.

Being Overweight Can Cause Sleep Apnea, and Sleep Apnea Can Lead to Weight Gain

Sleep apnea causes a suite of daytime symptoms that can make it exceptionally difficult for patients to maintain a healthy weight. Fatigue and lethargy, and therefore the unwillingness to exercise, resulting from poor sleep is just one part of the picture. We also tend to eat more when we struggle with low energy levels and depressive moods, but perhaps most interesting of all: a lack of a good night’s rest actually goes so far as effecting our hormones.

Sleep Deprivation and Hormonal Balance

There are three hormones that come into play when we are sleep deprived:  
  • Leptin, according to Recent Research, is the hormone that instructs us to stop eating. It’s the hormone responsible for telling our brains that we’re full and don’t need to eat anymore. When you haven’t had enough sleep, our bodies produce less leptin, which causes us to eat more.
  • Ghrelin is the hormone that makes us feel hungry and compels us to eat. When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies produce more of this hormone, which in conjunction with less leptin causes us to eat far more than we would if we were getting a good night’s rest.
  • Insulin is also affected by insufficient sleep. When we are sleep deprived, our body’s cells tend to become insulin resistant, which blocks the delivery of energy-giving glucose. In some cases, this can be severe enough to cause diabetes! Additionally, insulin encourages the release of that “stop eating” hormone leptin, so when our bodies reject insulin the production of this hormone decreases, causing us to eat more.
  And, of course, eating more naturally leads to further weight gain and this tends to lead to, or exacerbate sleep apnea. So we see that not getting enough sleep on its own won’t cause you to pick up weight, but the physical, psychological and even hormonal drive to eat more is there.

How Can We Stop The Cycle?

Addressing weight gain needs to start with addressing sleep disorders, because when we get a good night’s rest, we not only halt the imbalanced production of hormones that make us want to eat more, but we also have the physical energy and mental resilience to exercise and stick to a healthier lifestyle. In most cases of mild to moderate and even severe obstructive sleep apnea, treatment can easily be provided in the form of an oral appliance. These devices are fabricated from custom-made molds of your upper and lower sets of teeth and are designed to gently and comfortably position your lower mandible slightly forward during sleep. This is typically enough to prevent the throat from collapsing, thereby enabling you to breathe easily at night and get great quality sleep. Severe cases of OSA can alternatively be treated with the use of medical equipment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices. CPAP is used to regulate the flow of air into and out of your lungs, while the increased pressure on the airways prevents them from collapsing. This leaves patients feeling so much better, well rested and with greater energy. CPAP typically becomes redundant after a 10% loss of body fat.

Contact Your Dentist or Doctor About Sleep Apnea and Weight Loss

If you are overweight, have a neck size of greater than 17,5 inches or exhibit the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea, see your doctor or dentist right away about treatment for your sleep disorder. It’s only once you get yourself a good night’s sleep that you’ll be able to achieve those weight loss goals and when you do shed the weight, you’ll notice a fantastic improvement in the quality of your sleep. In fact, it’s not uncommon for sleep apnea to completely disappear after a loss of 10% – 15% body fat!