The Link Between Your Weight and Sleep Apnea

Snoring can be a big problem for everyone in your household. Although you may sleep like a baby, your loud snoring keeps others up at night, which can lead to health problems for them over time.

But don’t think you get off scot-free — some causes of snoring can put you in danger as well. Case in point: If you have obstructive sleep apnea, it means your upper airway is sometimes blocked, and you experience intermittent breathing disruptions throughout the night. 

To help keep your airway open, our team of dental experts here at OK Tooth in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, can provide you with a custom-fitted mandibular advancement device (MAD) that holds your lower jaw forward, creating a wider space in your airway.

While the device can reduce your snoring and help you and your partner get better quality sleep, it’s always best to take care of the underlying problem. In many cases of obstructive sleep apnea, excess body weight is either the culprit or the exacerbator. Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between sleep apnea and your weight.

How being overweight leads to sleep apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues and muscles in your throat relax too much and obstruct your airway. Central sleep apnea is a neurological problem between your brain and your breathing muscles.

Anything that causes your throat muscles to relax — such as drinking too much alcohol or taking sleeping aids — can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, but most people don’t realize that simply being overweight can obstruct your airway, too.

When you’re overweight, you have excess laryngeal fat deposits in your neck that take up space. When your muscles relax during sleep, the fat settles in and narrows your airway. As you struggle to breathe through the reduced opening, the soft tissues rattle together and make the loud snoring sounds.

If you carry extra weight around your midsection, it may be pressing on your chest wall, which decreases your lung capacity and may lead to reduced airflow as well.

Studies show that up to 90% of all obstructive sleep apnea sufferers are also overweight. And you don’t have to be obese to suffer from weight-related obstructive sleep apnea — being even 10 pounds beyond your healthy weight increases your risk by a factor of six. 

How sleep apnea leads to weight gain

The relationship between weight and sleep apnea is reciprocal. Poor quality sleep may decrease your production of leptin, a hormone that keeps your appetite under control, and increase your production of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite. This combo can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Also, when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you have less energy during the day. That might mean that you can’t or won’t participate in healthy exercise — yet another contributor to weight gain.

Fortunately, losing weight can reverse the negative effects of sleep apnea. In fact, losing just 10%-15% of your body weight can reduce your obstructive sleep apnea symptoms by 50%. 

Get help for your sleep apnea now

While you work on losing weight to improve your overall health, we can help you get better sleep to support your efforts by fitting you for a snoring appliance. Wearing a MAD isn’t uncomfortable — you can still breathe through your mouth and sleep in any position you like.

To find out if a dental device can help you sleep better and breathe easier, schedule a consultation at OK Tooth. You can request an appointment online or call us today. 

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