There are many possible causes of sleep apnea, but the most common of them is being overweight or obese. The main reason is that there will be fatter within the soft tissue in your mouth and throat, and thus a greater chance of it closing over while you sleep.
Sleep apnea can be hard to diagnose if you sleep alone. You may simply think that you are getting poor quality sleep or bad dreams. You may also be snoring, but if somebody doesn’t tell you, you will never know. Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea.
When you sleep, the muscles in your throat and tongue relax, and they can close over your airways and prevent you from breathing continuously. Approx. 18 million people in the USA have sleep apnea, and this is linked to the increased rate of obesity.
If you are overweight and suspect that you may have problems, talk to your doctor about having a sleep study done. You will spend a night in a special hospital room, where your breathing and other functions will be monitored, and then you will be diagnosed. Once that has happened, treatment can begin.
If you are obese, you’re less likely to exercise in order to reduce your weight. A sedentary lifestyle is common for obese people, and that only increases the risk of contracting sleep apnea. Since you will get poor sleep, you will feel lethargic during the day. You may also nap during the day, and then you won’t sleep well at night. Because you won’t have energy to do anything, you will keep going on and on in that vicious cycle, often gaining extra weight at the same time. If you’re sleepy, you will eat more often, mistaking hunger for tiredness.
If you have sleep apnea and get treated, you will be able to boost your energy levels, improve the quality of your sleep and start to rebuild your stamina by exercising and eating right. You may also be able to avoid having daytime naps, which often times make you feel more tired.
It is a bit like the chicken and the egg story. Obesity may cause sleep apnea and sleep apnea may cause obesity. So by addressing the sleep apnea, you can indirectly address the obesity issue as well. Of course, by doing this you will also be decreasing the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other medical problems that arise from being overweight.
Up to 80% of people with diabetes are obese and have sleep apnea. Another study shows that about 70% of obese people have sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea and drive, there is a high risk of having an accident, because you will feel more fatigued than normal, but you may not even realize it until it’s too late.
If you have sleep apnea and are obese, you may also suffer from depression. That can lead to comfort eating and a gain in weight, which may make your sleep apnea even worse. So you really need to make radical changes in your life if you want to avoid all these problems.
The bottom line is that you need to take responsibility for your own health and ask your doctor for help. You can only be treated if the problem is acknowledged.