Most research has shown that maintaining a moderate weight is correlated with improvement in sleep apnea. In fact, the connection is so strong that many doctors recommend that people with sleep apnea maintain a moderate weight.
The above information comes from a 2020 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
Sleep apnea affects an estimated 22 million people in the United States. People with this condition regularly stop breathing while they sleep.
The most common form is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when something blocks your airways. About 41% of cases of obstructive sleep apnea in adults are linked to obesity. This may be because too much soft tissue, such as B. tongue fat, can cause blockages in the airways.
Read more to learn how a person’s weight affects sleep apnea, how and when people should try to lose weight, and other treatment options.
Obstructive sleep apnea involves the partial or complete collapse of the airways, reducing oxygen levels and disrupting sleep.
It occurs due to two factors affecting the airway: insufficient space for airflow and low muscle tone.
People with obesity can have one or both of these problems. You may have fatty deposits in the upper airways that narrow the airways and make it difficult to breathe. Too little muscle activity can also reduce muscle tone.
Research has shown a direct link between weight and sleep apnea. A 2000 11-year prospective cohort study found that weight changes were associated with changes in sleep breathing.
A lot of research has shown a link between weight and sleep apnea, but they haven’t figured out why. Research from 2019 examined the exact mechanism underlying how weight loss alleviates sleep apnea.
It turned out that weight loss led to a reduction in abdominal and tongue fat. It also reduced the size of the soft tissues in the upper airways.
However, the authors found that decreased tongue fat was the main contributor to reducing sleep apnea symptoms.
It’s also important to note that weight loss may be proportional to changes in their sleep apnea. Despite this, research strongly recommended weight loss for all people with sleep apnea, regardless of severity or adherence to other treatments.
Aside from recommending maintaining a moderate weight and other lifestyle changes such as For example, to exercise and stop smoking if necessary, a doctor may prescribe one of the following:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is the use of CPAP. A CPAP machine provides constant air pressure to keep the airways open.
Consistent nighttime use can make symptoms go away almost entirely.
These are custom-fit devices that a person can wear in their mouth while they sleep to keep the upper airway open. They either reposition the jaw or stick the tongue forward.
Oral and facial muscle therapy
Exercises to strengthen the muscles of the mouth and face can be helpful. Aside from strengthening all the muscles in this area, they improve the position of the tongue.
If other treatments don’t work, a doctor may recommend one of several surgical procedures. These include an implant, removal of adenoids or tonsils, and jaw surgery.
While doctors advise people with sleep apnea to maintain a moderate weight, it’s important to do so carefully and safely. Losing weight can be difficult and is a long-term process that requires small, sustainable lifestyle changes.
Let experts advise you on nutrition
A person should contact a doctor before beginning any new diet, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
Programs that offer frequent appointments with a weight loss specialist and long-term follow-up visits have associations with better weight outcomes. If a person is considering maintaining a moderate weight, they can consult a doctor about programs and support groups.
Avoid crash or overly restrictive diets
Doctors do not recommend fads or crash diets that severely restrict calories, nor do they advocate skipping meals. Instead, they advise setting a modest goal of losing 1-2 pounds a week.
Choose a nutritious diet
Some trending diets, like the keto diet, promise quick results without starvation. However, scientists have not proven the effectiveness and long-term safety of this approach.
It may be wise to try a nutritious, balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Since it’s not realistic to drastically change a person’s eating plan overnight, experts usually recommend small, incremental changes. This can mean adding an extra serving of vegetables each day, swapping out white carbohydrates for whole grains, and striving to get enough protein.
Over time, these small changes can produce long-lasting results.
Learn more about how to lose weight safely and sustainably.
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about sleep apnea and weight loss.
There is a clear link between sleep apnea and obesity. Most doctors advise people with sleep apnea to maintain a moderate weight, and in many cases this can improve their symptoms.
However, before beginning any weight loss plan, it is best to speak to a doctor first.
Health professionals can suggest a safe, healthy weight loss plan and provide personalized recommendations that take into account a person’s other health conditions. In addition to weight loss, doctors can recommend the most effective treatment that involves the use of CPAP.