There’s a strong correlation between sleep apnea and weight. In fact, “about half of people with sleep apnea are overweight.” Excess weight accumulates in the soft tissue of the mouth and throat, increasing the pressure on the patient’s airway. This makes the patient much more vulnerable to sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can also lead to weight gain. In many cases, this causes people to get stuck in a vicious cycle where it becomes very difficult for them to lose weight.
Today, dentists like Dr. Rebecca Lauck are at the forefront of sleep apnea care. By offering comprehensive treatment, a qualified sleep dentist will provide relief for your sleep apnea symptoms. This frequently involves strategies for reducing the patient’s weight.
In addition to relieving your sleep apnea symptoms, weight loss will also make you less vulnerable to other hazardous medical conditions such as strokes, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
What’s Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when a patient stops breathing several times each night while sleeping due to a blockage somewhere along the airway. This causes a substantial reduction in blood oxygen levels. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include heavy snoring as well as feeling fatigued and irritable during the day.
There are a number of factors that increase a patient’s susceptibility to sleep apnea, including an upper airway that’s crowded by oversized organs, high narrow arches, a family history of sleep apnea, smoking, and drug and alcohol use. A patient’s weight is also an important predictor for sleep apnea.
How Obesity Affects Sleep Apnea
Today in America we are faced with alarming levels of obesity. And we know that being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for sleep apnea. According to the Mayo Clinic. “In a nation in which obesity is an epidemic, we should consider primary prevention, rather than simply treating the symptoms.”
Now there’s clear scientific evidence that losing weight will substantially reduce sleep apnea symptoms. In a study conducted at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, 40 sleep apnea patients were put on a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) and the results were astonishing.
The patients in the Finland hospital study “achieved beneficial outcomes” that were maintained in a “1-year follow-up,” According to Henri P.I. Tuomilehto, M.D., Ph.D. who worked on the study, “The greater the change in body weight or waist circumference, the greater was the improvement in OSA.”
A report from the American Thoracic Society concludes that lifestyle intervention using a VLCD is “a feasible, low-cost, and curative treatment for the vast majority of patients with mild OSA, and it can be implemented in a primary care setting after diagnosis of OSA.” They go on to note that therapy involving a VLDC “also results in an improvement of obesity-related risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.”
How Sleep Apnea Causes Weight Gain
Sleep apnea contributes to weight gain in two different ways. First, it triggers your body to release a hormone called ghrelin. This causes your body to crave foods that are high in carbohydrates, which is a leading cause of weight gain.
By reducing the amount of oxygen that a person gets while sleeping, sleep apnea causes patients to become tired and listless during the day. This discourages physical activity and slows down the patient’s metabolism, resulting in weight gain.
See a Qualified Sleep Dentist for Sleep Apnea Care
If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it’s essential to contact a qualified sleep dentist right away to arrange a consultation. They’ll make sure you get the correct diagnosis for your symptoms and help you find the treatment that’s right for you.
Qualified sleep dentists like Dr. Roman Shlafer feature a number of effective treatments for sleep apnea. Dr. Shlafer reminds us that “sleep apnea can lead to serious health consequences without treatment.”
Additional Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Additional treatments for sleep apnea include position therapy, surgery to remove excess tissue, CPAP machines, and oral appliance therapy. Your dentist may recommend one of these remedies or even a combination of treatments.
Although CPAP is a very effective treatment for sleep apnea, many people don’t use their CPAP machine correctly or they stop using it altogether. Patients often complain that wearing their CPAP is loud, disruptive, and it restricts their movement.
Dr. James Fetsch is having great success using oral appliance therapy. He says, “These devices work by gently positioning the bottom jaw forward during sleep, preventing airway blockage.”