There are many correlations between sleep apnea (specifically, OSA) and health. According to the National Sleep Foundation OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) affects 3% to 7% of the United States population. Being overweight along with other factors such as nasal congestion and small airways are all common causes of this sleep disorder. But, did you know that half of sleep apnea patients are overweight? Here’s what we can learn from the connection between sleep apnea and weight.

Weight Gain Leading to Sleep Apnea:

Weight gain leads to a buildup of fat in the neck area and it can put pressure on the airways, causing sleep apnea to occur. BMI and neck circumference are the two main markers that point to an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea. A BMI of 25-29.9 and above is considered obese; as well as a neck circumferences of 17 inches in men and 15 inches in women. Luckily, there’s one main way to decrease BMI and neck circumference, exercise. Weight loss can help to improve OSA all together.  

Sleep Apnea Causing Weight Gain:

Sleep apnea is the main contributor to weight gain, and the severity of OSA depends on how much weight people gain. OSA, if untreated, leads to poor sleep quality and it influences hormones related to eating. According to Duke Health, “Sleep deprivation results in lower levels of the hormone leptin, which reduces hunger, and higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.” There is a direct connection between poor sleep habits/cycles and chemical changes. Those with OSA are also tired during the day, making it harder to workout and lose weight.  Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can lead to metabolic issues as well. Levels of blood glucose and insulin are higher after poor sleep; higher insulin levels make it harder to use fat stores and lose weight.

At the end of the day, getting a good night’s sleep and staying active can help to reduce the risk of sleep apnea. Talking with your doctor can help to confirm if you are overweight, and, if you have this sleep disorder. Untreated OSA carries many risks including, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart problems. Once to talk to your doctor, you can come up with a plan together to help you sleep better and treat sleep apnea.