Who hasn’t made the New Year’s Resolution to cut out the junk food and start exercising to drop a few pounds? And in addition to being able to wear your favorite pair of jeans again, did you know that weight loss can reduce the symptoms associated with your sleep apnea? In fact, it may even be possible to cure your sleep apnea simply by shedding your excess weight!
The Obesity-Sleep Apnea Connection
Although you don’t have to be overweight to have sleep apnea, there is a strong connection between obesity and experiencing this chronic condition. Tellingly, up to 80% of those with sleep apnea would be considered overweight or obese by their doctor.
Is Weight Loss the Cure for Sleep Apnea?
Studies are showing that losing weight could be one of the best things you could do for reducing your sleep apnea symptoms or even curing your sleep apnea completely. A study out of Sweden was able to demonstrate that by putting participants on a low-calorie diet (500 calories a day to be exact), the participants had lost on average 24 pounds, and had reduced the severity of their sleep apnea symptoms by 58%!
Checking back on these same participants a year later revealed that 48% of them didn’t need to use their CPAP machine, and 10% had effectively cured their sleep apnea. In addition, the study was able to show that the more pounds participants dropped, the more their sleep apnea symptoms improved as well.
Weight Loss Difficulties with Sleep Apnea
Losing weight is hard enough for the average person, and unfortunately is can seem twice as difficult if you have sleep apnea. In fact, it is more difficult for someone with sleep apnea to shed excess weight even if the extra weight is the cause of the sleep apnea in the first place!
The reason being is that sleep deprivation can slow your metabolism, making it difficult to burn off the calories you take in during the day. At the same time, many overweight and obese people have what’s called ‘metabolic syndrome’, which is a condition that can be characterized by insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and high blood pressure. The combination of these factors makes your body a fat-storing rather than a fat-burning machine.
In the Meantime, Treat Your Apnea Properly
All of this means that sometimes eating more vegetables, fruit, and lean protein just isn’t enough to shift your weight downwards. If you do have sleep apnea and you’re trying to lose weight then you’ll want to consider CPAP therapy (if you aren’t already using a CPAP machine). Supplying your body with oxygen throughout the night will help you get the sleep you need and help balance the hormones involved in obtaining a healthy body weight. Plus, feeling well-rested means you’ll also have more energy to exercise.
Overall, what you need to remember is that losing weight could be an important component of treating your sleep apnea. But don’t crash diet in an effort to drop the weight. Slow and steady lifestyle changes that incorporate more fresh and whole foods are the key to sustainable and permanent weight loss.