Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders today. Those affected by sleep apnea experience disrupted breathing while they sleep. In cases of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of sleep apnea, this disruptive breathing is caused by a blocked or narrow upper airway, similar to breathing through a straw. OSA can dramatically impact your quality of sleep, and many OSA sufferers report having upwards of 30 breathing disruptions per night.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have OSA, you might be wondering whether certain lifestyle and behavioral factors increase your chances of having or worsening the disorder. There are a few factors like weight, alcohol consumption, and smoking that can increase or worsen the disorder. In this article, we’ll break down the impact that weight has on OSA.

How does weight impact sleep apnea?

As the medical community continues to study OSA, multiple links to excess body weight are emerging. The most common factor in increasing your likelihood of developing OSA is being overweight or obese. Additionally, excess weight not only causes sleep apnea, but it worsens its symptoms, and exacerbates its side effects.

Poor sleep can also lead to further weight gain, which causes a vicious cycle for OSA sufferers. However, making an effort towards achieving a healthy weight can improve the condition.

Alongside this, excess weight creates fat deposits in a person’s neck that are called pharyngeal fat. This fat blocks a person’s upper airway during sleep, resulting in OSA’s most common symptom, snoring.

Not only does increased weight affect the airway, but it can also compress a person’s chest wall, which decreases lung volume. This reduced lung capacity diminishes airflow, making the airway more likely to collapse when you sleep.

Can losing weight improve my sleep apnea?

In short, yes. Working towards achieving a healthy weight can majorly relieve your sleep apnea symptoms. These include:

  • Helping to reduce fatty deposits in the neck and tongue that contribute to restricted airflow.
  • Reducing abdominal fat which increases lung volume and improves airway traction
  • Reducing other common OSA symptoms including drowsiness, irritability, and snoring.

When should I seek professional help?

In general, the earlier you can get treatment, the better. Early treatment is key to preventing further complications or difficulties related to OSA. With effective treatment, you can both improve your quality of life and start getting better sleep.

If you’re ready to start sleeping soundly again, contact Marx Sleep Center today to discuss tailored treatment options to best suit your needs.