The Link Between Being Overweight and Sleep Apnea

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The Link Between Being Overweight and Sleep Apnea

Roughly 30 million Americans have sleep apnea, a chronic condition that causes repeated interruptions in nighttime breathing — often so brief, you may not even realize they’re occurring. While there are different types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common by far.

Although researchers are still learning about OSA, its causes, and its complications, what they do know is that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop it, along with complications like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. In fact, data show nearly 60% of moderate to severe sleep apnea is related to being overweight or obese. 

At Tomase Dental CareTimothy Tomase, DDS, and his team help patients in Toledo, Ohio, manage their sleep apnea with treatments that incorporate special nighttime appliances and lifetime guidance to reduce each patient’s unique risk factors. In this post, Dr. Tomase offers a brief overview of sleep apnea and how your weight can play a role.

Quick facts about sleep apnea

Like the name implies, obstructive sleep apnea happens when your airway is partially or completely blocked or obstructed. This happens when your throat muscles relax during sleep, and the soft tissues at the back of your throat descend into your airway.

Every time your breathing stops, your organs are deprived of oxygen. Over time, OSA leads to increased risks of:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Depression

Most people who have OSA are left feeling tired and drowsy the next day, leaving them at risk of workplace accidents and car accidents.

Most people equate snoring with sleep apnea. But while snoring is a common symptom, snoring can be caused by other issues, such as allergies or a deviated septum. What’s more, not everyone with sleep apnea snores. It’s important to know other symptoms, like:

  • Waking up gasping for breath
  • Having a dry mouth in the morning
  • Waking up with a sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Problems concentrating
  • Moodiness and irritability

Some people don’t realize they sleep have apnea until a sleeping partner makes them aware of a snoring habit or gasping during their sleep.

The link between weight and sleep apnea

Excess weight can contribute to OSA in several ways. First, many people who are overweight have fatty deposits around their airways. These deposits narrow the airways, making breathing issues more common.

Fatty deposits can also interfere with normal muscle control in your throat. Together, these effects can lead to breathing problems during sleep, along with snoring and gasping for air. 

Excess weight also leads to a larger neck circumference, which has also been associated with an increased risk of OSA, according to the Obesity Medicine Association. Greater waist and hip circumferences have also been linked to increased OSA risk. Finally, obesity is associated with disruptions in hormones that play key roles in sleep.

Treating sleep apnea

Dr. Tomase has significant experience in treating obstructive sleep apnea. When he suspects a patient has OSA, he recommends an evaluation or sleep study with a leading sleep physician or lab in the area. 

Once the diagnosis of OSA is confirmed, Dr. Tomase creates a custom oral appliance you can wear while you sleep. The appliance gently shifts your jaw position to help prevent airway collapse, avoiding the need for cumbersome CPAP appliances. 

If your tongue is blocking your airway, he recommends a night splint to prevent your tongue from slipping back into your throat. No matter what, your device will be created just for you, using the most advanced materials for a comfortable fit that lets you finally enjoy uninterrupted sleep.

If you have OSA or if you suspect you do, having an evaluation is the first step toward preventing serious complications. To schedule your evaluation, call 419-670-6537 or book an appointment online at Tomase Dental Care today.