A condition that affects millions of Americans, sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that prevents people from getting the full benefits of their nightly rest. The most common form of the condition is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which refers to the full or partial blockage of the airway. In addition to preventing the person from getting adequate rest, researchers have discovered a link between weight gain and sleep apnea. Continue reading to learn how each factor can influence the other.
How Weight Gain and OSA are Connected
Excessive weight gain increases neck girth. The added mass can then place pressure on the throat muscles, making them flaccid while sleeping. This can cause an airway obstruction and lead to bouts of apnea (stoppages in breathing). Two common warning signs of OSA are loud snoring and gasping sounds while attempting to sleep.
While increased weight can certainly play a role in developing OSA, it’s not the sole contributor. For example, some people have enlarged tonsils that partially block their airway and cause sleep breathing problems. It turns out that those who suffer from OSA and fail to get adequate rest at night are more susceptible to becoming obese.
How Adopting Healthy Lifestyle Habits Can Help
By eating healthier, which should include more fruits and vegetables and lean protein sources into your diet, you can achieve better health and drop some pounds. Studies show that losing just 10-15% of one’s current weight can reduce the severity of OSA by 50%. Combining healthy eating with a consistent exercise regimen can also reduce blood pressure, improve cardiovascular wellness and increase insulin sensitivity.
The Advantage of Working with a Sleep Dentist
Along with making wellness a major part of your life, it’s necessary to work with a sleep dentist to receive treatment for OSA. The first step, though, is to be properly diagnosed. If you or your partner have noticed any of the following traits, bring it to your physician’s attention so you can take a sleep test:
- Mood swings
- Sexual dysfunction
- Morning headaches
- High blood pressure
- Loud, chronic snoring
- Severe daytime lethargy
- Sore throat or dry mouth in the morning
- Difficulty focusing or remembering things
- Gasping for air or waking up feeling out of breath
Once you’re diagnosed, you can move forward with receiving the treatment you need from a local sleep dentist. In the past, the only treatment option was a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. While it is highly effective, many patients aren’t happy with its more cumbersome nature and the sound it produces.
Thankfully, there is an alternative – oral appliance therapy. A sleep dentist can custom design a device that fits comfortably inside your mouth while sleeping. It works to gently shift your jaw forward to allow for better breathing while you slumber. Therefore, you can lead a healthier and more productive life!
About the Author
Dr. Keith Hollinger earned his dental degree from Tufts University. Throughout a career that has spanned over 20 years, he has received several hours of advanced postgraduate training in treating sleep breathing disorders. A member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Hollinger treats OSA at his private practice, and he can be reached for more information or to schedule a visit through his website.