By Melody Simanian
Have you ever woken yourself up from your own snoring?
If so, you may be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated episodes of temporary stops in breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing, known as apneas, can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and occur several times an hour throughout the night.
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by physical blockages in the airway, such as the tongue or excess fat, that prevent air from flowing into the lungs. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Sleep apnea can lead to a number of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and chronic fatigue. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly, gasp for air during sleep, and experience excessive daytime sleepiness, among other symptoms. The condition is usually diagnosed with a sleep study and treated with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, modifying sleeping habits, and using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. In some cases, surgery may also be recommended to treat the underlying cause of the condition.
Obesity is a major risk factor for developing sleep apnea, a condition in which a person stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. This happens because excess fat deposits in the neck can narrow the airway and make it more difficult for air to flow in and out. Additionally, obesity can also increase inflammation and swelling in the upper airway, which can further obstruct breathing. In people with obesity, the extra weight can also put pressure on the chest and abdomen, making it harder for the diaphragm and chest muscles to expand and contract to draw in air. This can lead to shallow breathing and periods of complete cessation of breathing during sleep, which are hallmarks of sleep apnea.
Losing weight can be an effective way to help alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea. Excess weight, especially around the neck, can contribute to the development of sleep apnea by narrowing the airway and making it more difficult for air to flow freely. As a result, losing weight can help to reduce the amount of fat in the neck and throat, which can help to improve breathing and reduce the frequency and severity of sleep apnea events.
Additionally, weight loss can also help to improve overall health, including cardiovascular health, which is often compromised in people with sleep apnea. By losing weight, people with sleep apnea can also reduce their risk of developing related health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.