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Sleep Apnea & Obesity

Devin Flynn
/ May 6, 2019

Although doctors typically emphasize the health benefits of having a normal BMI, one added benefit of weight loss is often forgotten: it can reduce the risk of obstructive sleep apnea and improve your sleep!

What exactly is obstructive sleep apnea? According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing repeatedly during their sleep.

How is obesity related to obstructive sleep apnea?

As a person starts to gain weight, excessive fat starts to deposit in typical areas like the stomach, face, and hips but can also be stored in their airways and the base of their tongue. This decreases lung volume and causes problems for normal breathing which hinders the individual from getting enough air and lowers the oxygen level in the blood. The brain senses the inability to breathe and briefly wakes up the individual so that they can reopen their airway. This awakening is usually so brief that they don’t even remember it. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night, impairing your ability to reach the deep, restful phases of sleep. Without a night of restful sleep, obstructive sleep apnea can cause other chronic health issues, such as further weight gain, insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia), cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a study conducted by Robert Wolk, Abu S.M. Shamsuzzaman, and Virend K. Somers (2003) regarding Obesity, Sleep Apnea and Hypertension found that OSA affected an estimated of 15 million Americans and those numbers will continue to rise within the coming years as a consequence of increasing obesity.

Several cross-sectional studies have found there is a correlation between being overweight/obese and the risk of having sleeping problems such as obstructive sleep apnea. As we feel more tired during the day, we lose motivation to exercise and our metabolism actually slows down. We are also tempted to eat more snacks and sugary treats to stimulate ourselves for energy, leading to further weight gain.

This is where Enara can intervene.

Your Enara care team provides the accountability and support that is necessary to form healthy behaviors and offset the bad habits that can come with sleep apnea. Although not all cases of sleep apnea are caused by obesity (which is why losing weight does not always guarantee getting rid of sleep apnea), weight loss can alleviate the effects of sleep apnea, reduce risks of further comorbidities, and restore your sense of energy!  


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