Healthy Living

Is Weight Loss the Ultimate Cure for Sleep Apnea?

Is Weight Loss the Ultimate Cure for Sleep Apnea?

Overweight and obese men are at a higher risk from sleep apnea than others. Losing weight is a good idea for anyone who is overweight, but losing pounds may also be a useful cure for sleep apnea. Research published in the British Medical Journal claims that weight issues and sleep apnea are connected.

When someone temporarily stops breathing while sleeping, they may have sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea will increase the risk for heart disease and strokes, and in some cases, sleep apnea can lead to death.

If your breathing is interrupted 50 or more times during an hour of sleep, you may have sleep apnea. The sleep disorder is a common condition, but very under-diagnosed.

In a study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, researchers tested 63 obese men between 30 and 65 years of age who suffered from moderate to severe sleep apnea. The study lasted nine-weeks, and half the participants went through an intensive weight loss program. This program involved strict calorie restrictions. The control group was told to go about their regular routines and keep up their usual eating habits. At the end of the 9-week study period, men in the weight loss program dropped an average of 42 lbs. and reduced their sleep apnea incidences by half.

The study went on to prove that losing weight helped those who suffered from severe sleep apnea. At the end of the nine-week period, more than half the men in the weight loss groups’ diagnosis changed from severe to mild sleep apnea. The study also stated that at least 16 percent of the participants were completely healthy and free of sleep apnea.

Sleep and weight gain

If you are sleepy at work or home, you often reach for a cup of coffee and a doughnut or a caffeinated soda and a candy bar for an influx of energy. You are so tired at the end of the day you usually skip the gym and pick up fast food on your way home. You collapse in your easy chair, too tired to move. Now is the time when you sit and watch TV while snacking on sugary foods. Sound familiar?

At night, you try and go to sleep, and you fall asleep, but you do not stay asleep. You may not know it, but you wake up from a restorative sleep at least 50 times an hour as your body tries to get air into your lungs. The next day, the cycle starts all over again with you eating and drinking calorie-laden snacks for energy.

According to Susan Zafarlotfi, Ph.D., clinical director at the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, everything starts out harmlessly. “When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods.”

You might be able to fight off tiredness and sleepiness, but your poor food choices, lack of exercise, and loss of sleep set you up for obesity and sleep deprivation.