Obesity and Sleep Apnea

More than one-third of Americans are now obese according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Obesity is a risk factor for many medical conditions, and is considered a major risk factor for the development of sleep apnea. Simply put, sleep apnea is a disorder in which one's airway becomes obstructed while asleep, causing loud snoring in less severe cases to a complete cessation of breathing, cardiac arrhythmias and low blood oxygen levels in the most severe cases. The repeated episodes of apnea (lack of breathing) cause frequent nighttime awakening (though the patient is often unaware) with broken, choppy, and sometimes non-restorative sleep. The problem is usually first noticed by the individual's spouse, who is disturbed by the patient's loud snoring.

Individuals with the disorder often complain of morning headaches, constant fatigue, listlessness and moodiness. Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common in obese individuals. It is believed that the airway of the individual becomes obstructed by large tonsils, enlarged tongue and increased fat in the neck, all pressing on the airway when the pharyngeal (throat) muscles are relaxed with sleep. A person's neck circumference is a good indicator of sleep apnea. Obese men with a neck circumference of 17 inches or greater, and obese women with a neck circumference of 16 inches or greater are more likely to have sleep apnea.

Not only does obesity have an association with sleep apnea, but sleep apnea and poor sleep, tends to cause people to eat more. There seems to be a relationship between hunger and satiety hormones and sleep deprivation, though the exact nature of this relationship is unclear. Also, individuals with sleep apnea often have elevated blood pressure, fasting glucose, and high cholesterol, all of which can be made worse with sleep deprivation. Obesity can lead to sleep apnea, which, itself, then causes problems with hormones that control eating habits, leading to more weight gain, worsened blood pressure, glucose intolerance, worsened apnea and a continued unhealthy cycle.

More Information Here:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021364/