The Vicious Cycle Between Weight and Sleep Apnea
No one wants to be overweight — it increases your risk for a variety of health issues, and it can hurt your self-esteem. Unfortunately, losing weight is often very difficult, and it becomes even more challenging if you suffer from sleep apnea.
There’s a clear relationship between weight and sleep apnea. When you’re overweight, it can affect your ability to breathe overnight and increase your risk of developing sleep apnea. Conversely, sleep apnea makes you prone to gaining weight, which can exacerbate related symptoms including cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
A 2011 study from the International Journal of Obesity found that “sleep problems likely contribute to weight gain.” A 2013 study by the National Academy of Sciences supports this conclusion. In a controlled experiment, the results showed men who slept only five hours a night gained one to two pounds per week, on average.
Do CPAP Machines Contribute to Weight Gain?
CPAP machines are one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea. Unfortunately, they can be loud and uncomfortable, causing four out of five patients to not use their machines for the full night. As a result, using CPAP may contribute to weight gain.
In a 2015 study, Dr. Frank Domino examined over 3,000 patients and determined that CPAP users experience an increase in body-mass index, on average. This result is independent of age, gender, starting weight, and CPAP compliance.
Losing Weight Can Help Your Symptoms
If you have sleep apnea, losing weight is one of the healthiest and most effective approaches to relieving your symptoms. In fact, weight loss is the first treatment emphasized for sleep apnea by the American College of Physicians.
A study by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in 2009 observed men with sleep apnea who restricted their diets for nine weeks. The results showed a 58% improvement in symptoms during that time. Weight loss also reduces your risk for several complications linked to sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Everyone knows that working out is good for you, but the truth is that most of us rarely feel like doing it. It can be tedious, frustrating, and uncomfortable, especially if you’re overweight. However, exercising gives you confidence and energy, in addition to helping you sleep better at night.
It’s important to understand that you don’t need to do anything extreme to see results. Working out doesn’t have to be pushing your body to its limits at the gym or running ten miles every day. In fact, the best way to exercise is by finding aerobic activities that you enjoy because you’re far more likely to sustain them.
Do you enjoy hiking? How about walking on the beach? Is there a sport you like to play, or do you love to dance? All of these activities are healthy, viable workouts that are actually fun to do. Just one hour of exercise per day for four to five days per week can dramatically improve your health.
If you’re struggling to fit exercise into your day, think about the time you spend watching TV or surfing the internet. Any time you can devote to physical activity will alleviate your sleep apnea symptoms and help you lose weight.
Your Diet Can Save Your Life
In addition to exercising, maintaining a healthy diet is an effective treatment for sleep apnea patients. Though dieting is a term that scares many patients off, you can live a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy your meals. Extreme diets are hard to maintain and often result in you gaining back the weight you initially lost.
That’s why we recommend something less rigorous. A 2011 study concluded that following a Mediterranean diet can improve your sleep apnea symptoms. It also improves your heart health and can reduce your risk for other diseases such as cancer. Best of all, the Mediterranean diet includes most of the foods we love, so you don’t have to deprive yourself too much.
When it comes to diet and weight loss, the most important thing to do is set clear goals and hold yourself accountable. Remember that if you stay focused and apply yourself, you’ll find a way to achieve the results you desire.