The Vicious Cycle Between Weight & Sleep Apnea
Being overweight increases your risk for a wide range of health issues and it can also damage your self-esteem. Unfortunately, managing your weight is hard, and it only becomes more difficult if you suffer from sleep apnea.
When you’re overweight, it can contribute to difficulty breathing overnight and increase your likelihood of developing sleep apnea. On the other hand, one of the primary symptoms of sleep apnea is weight gain, which can exacerbate related symptoms.
A 2013 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that men who only slept five hours a night gained one to two pounds per week, on average. Explore our guide to learn more about the complex relationship between sleep apnea and your weight.
Do CPAP Masks Contribute to Weight Gain?
The first treatment prescribed for sleep apnea is often a CPAP mask. Though effective when used properly, many patients find the device too loud and uncomfortable to sleep with. This causes many patients to stop wearing their CPAP mask and gain weight as a result.
In a 2015 study, Dr. Frank Domino evaluated over 3,000 sleep apnea patients and found that CPAP users experienced an increase in BMI (body-mass index). This result is independent of age, gender, starting weight, and CPAP compliance.
Losing Weight Can Relieve Your Symptoms
If you have sleep apnea, losing weight is one of the healthiest and most effective ways to manage your symptoms. In fact, weight loss is the first treatment for sleep apnea that’s emphasized by the American College of Physicians.
In 2009, a study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden observed male sleep apnea patients who restricted their diets for nine weeks. The results showed a 58% improvement in symptoms during that time period.
Losing weight also reduces your risk for several complications that are linked to sleep apnea, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular issues.
Find Enjoyable Ways to Exercise
It’s a well-known fact that exercising regularly is good for you, but the truth is that most of us rarely feel like doing it. Working out can be tiresome, tedious, and uncomfortable, especially if you’re overweight. However, exercising can help alleviate your sleeping troubles.
Remember that you don’t need to do anything extreme to achieve healthy results. Working out doesn’t have to mean pushing your body to its physical limits and going to the gym every day.
Realistically, the best way to exercise is to find fun aerobic activities that you enjoy. You’ll be far more likely to keep this routine up, as opposed to trying to motivate yourself to do something that you find unpleasant every day.
Do you enjoy hiking, or walking on the beach? Is there a sport you like to play? What about yoga or dancing? These are all viable workouts that allow you to improve your health and enjoy yourself in the process.
If you’re struggling to fit exercise into your daily routine, think about reducing the amount of time you spend watching tv or using your phone. Just one hour of aerobic activity per day for four to five days per week will help you lose weight and manage your sleep apnea symptoms.
A Healthy Diet Can Save Your Life
In addition to exercising, maintaining a healthy diet is a crucial aspect of managing your sleep apnea symptoms. Though dieting is a term that many patients have negative associations with, it’s totally possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying your favorite foods.
In fact, extreme diets are very difficult to keep up and often lead to you regaining the weight that you initially lose. That’s why we recommend something less strict, like a Mediterranean diet. A 2011 study found that following a Mediterranean diet can improve your sleep apnea symptoms.
This diet will also reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health complications. Best of all, you can still enjoy all of the foods you love without depriving yourself too much.
The most important aspect of controlling your weight is to hold yourself accountable. If you stay focused and set clear goals, both in terms of your diet and exercise routine, you’ll find a way to achieve the results you’re looking for.