There are many contributing factors to obstructive sleep apnea, including anatomical features such as narrow airway, large neck, alcohol consumption and progression with age. However, an individual’s weight is often a major contributing factor to this condition.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a breathing disorder during sleep where the airway becomes obstructed due to muscle and throat relaxation, causing cessations in breath that can lead to serious health conditions, including heart attack, stroke and diabetes, among others.
When a male’s neck size exceeds 17 inches, combined with extra weight, it can put pressure on the airway, leaving the individual at much higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea. The same goes for women with a neck size exceeding 16 inches. Overweight and obese individuals are more likely to have excessive fatty tissues around the throat that create a narrower airway, and when the individual is sleeping, these tissues can cave in more easily into the airway and obstruct airflow, leading to apnea events.
Studies have shown when an individual loses weight, it can decrease their apnea levels, potentially lowering the degree of obstructive sleep apnea with which they were originally diagnosed and allow them to proceed with a less aggressive treatment, such as an oral sleep device. However, individuals with obstructive sleep apnea can find it much more difficult to lose weight due to their poor quality of sleep and more inactive lifestyle, leaving them with minimal energy during the day to be proactive.
If it is suspected that obstructive sleep apnea is occurring, it is imperative to follow through with a sleep test. If weight-loss is extremely hard to attain, there may be something more serious occurring during sleep, making it exceptionally difficult for the extra weight to come off.
Dr. Frederick Dreher is the owner of Integrative Sleep Center, located at 410 Rowland St., in Ballston Spa. For information about home sleep tests provided by his office, call 518-885-6185 or visit IntegrativeSleepCenter.com.