Weight Loss and Sleep Apnea
Most everyone knows that lack of sleep causes weight gain. Obviously, weight gain makes weight loss harder. However, weight and sleep apnea have an even stronger correlation. Folks who struggle with sleep apnea often struggle with weight problems as well. Unfortunately, sleep apnea itself makes weight loss even more difficult.
Weight Loss And Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea affects your breathing patterns as you sleep. It interrupts your breaths or makes them very shallow. Each time this happens, you jolt from sleep ever so slightly, shaking your body out of the necessary sleep cycles that help your body to recuperate and prepare for the next day. As a result, when you wake up, you feel tired and worn out. Unfortunately, this is the best case scenario in a moderate case of sleep apnea.
Chronic sleep deprivation and sleep apnea combine lead to serious health problems on down the line. The Sleep Foundation reports that in addition to the weight gain typical among the sleep deprived, individuals with sleep apnea struggle to lose weight in particular. The failure to sleep leads to fluctuations in hormone levels and reduces available energy to make healthy choices both mentally and physically. The Sleep Help Center reports that extended periods of untreated sleep apnea can result in increased risks for strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, and more.
What Can Be Done?
Sleep apnea is no joking matter. In many cases, you will need to visit a doctor to check for damage and the level of severity. However, for light to moderate cases, you can often do a great deal on your own to treat the sleep apnea.
First and foremost, you need to focus on losing any excess weight.
While reports vary, the Sleep Foundation reports that a weight loss of up to 10% or more can lead to a drastic reduction in sleep apnea symptoms. Additionally, the extra fat on the body can cause the blockages which sometimes occur, primarily through the pressure on the throat as the excess fat falls back around it over the night.
Losing weight reduces the pressure on the air passages and makes breathing easier. Ideally, the weight loss program which you pursue will train you in functional fitness forms. In other words, you will participate in fitness that has real life benefits rather than lifting weights in isolated muscle sets. Getting started really is the hardest part in this, so if you need some guidance, go here for some inspiration.
Second, you need to ensure that you are drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is another contributing factor to poor sleep levels. It also worsens sleep apnea symptoms and makes it more difficult for the body to respond effectively. Ideally, the water should be used to replace soda and other caffeinated or sugary beverages.
Third, you should give up all smoking, drug, and alcohol habits. Both of these lead to dehydration and increase inflammation in the body, particularly in the throat. This can then lead to swelling in the back of the throat and along the upper air passages. In a similar vein, you should also avoid sleeping pills and sedatives. Treat them as drugs. It may seem counter intuitive because you are trying to get good sleep after all. However, drugs which a doctor has not prescribed can interfere with your breathing and the function of your throat muscles. Part of the reason that you jolt out of sleep when you stop breathing is because your body is trying to keep you alive. If you relax too much, then your body might not be able to pull you out.
The fourth thing that you can do on your own is to institute a series of sleeping tricks to help keep yourself sleeping in the best position possible. Ideally, you should be resting on your side. This position prevents your tongue and the soft tissues and fats from pressing back on your throat and blocking the airways. You should keep the pillows inclined as well or use a foam wedge to keep your head between four and six inches up from your waist.
To prevent rolling over, you can sew a tennis ball onto the back of your pajamas. When you roll over, it will wake you up, and eventually you will learn not to roll back. This may seem like a step back considering it will wake you up all the way while the sleep apnea only wakes you up part of the way, but after a few nights, it will stop because your body will no longer want to go to that position.
The last thing that you can do to make bedtime easier is to go to bed at a set time. Your body needs rest, and this becomes even more important when something is disturbing it. Get your body into a rhythm and let it enjoy the regular rest times.
Dr. Frankie Roman, “Losing Weight with Sleep Apnea,” Sleep Foundation, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/ask-the-expert/losing-weight-sleep-apnea
Sleep Help Center, “Sleep Apnea,” Help Guide, http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_apnea.htm