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Is Being Overweight Putting You at Risk of Sleep Apnoea?

If you’re struggling to stay awake during the day, or keeping your partner awake at night with loud snoring, then sleep apnoea could be the culprit. While sleep apnoea can occur in people with a normal BMI, the disorder is more common in those who are overweight. 

If you’re not sure what sleep apnoea is or what its symptoms or health effects are, then keep reading to find out more.

What is Sleep Apnoea

What is Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder where normal breathing is interrupted during sleep. The walls of the throat relax, allowing the tongue and/or fatty tissue to fall back and compromise the airway, resulting in a partial or, in some cases, complete obstruction. When your body senses it needs air it briefly wakes you up to reopen the airway, often with a snort, a gasp or deep breath.  

For people with sleep apnoea, there is a pattern of sleeping, then waking up, that goes on throughout the night. In very severe cases people can wake every one to two minutes, without being aware of it. The disorder is more likely in males and in those over 40; though factors like body fat distribution, genetics, and smoking or drinking can increase the likelihood of sleep apnoea in anyone, at any age. 

Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea

Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea

One of the most common, and noticeable, symptoms of sleep apnoea is loud snoring; due to air being forced out through a narrowed airway. Often a partner or family member will comment on this, especially if it’s keeping them awake at night. Noisy breathing, short periods where breathing stops or waking abruptly with snorting or gasping can also be signs of sleep apnoea. 

Other symptoms can include:

  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Irritability or depression
  • Feeling the need to eat sugary or carb-laden snacks
  • A dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
  • Headache in the morning
  • Night sweats
  • More frequent need to urinate during the night
  • Lack of libido

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

Obstructive sleep apnoea is simply the most common form of the disorder, and what most people are referring to when they talk about ‘sleep apnoea’. There are two other forms of sleep apnoea: central sleep apnoea (a communication issue with the brain) and complex sleep apnoea (a mix of both obstructive and central forms). 

People with sleep apnoea generally fall into three categories:

  • Mild: 5 - 14 breathing interruptions in an hour; 
  • Moderate: 15 - 30 breathing interruptions in an hour; or 
  • Severe: 30 or more breathing interruptions in an hour.

Even a mild form of sleep apnoea will affect your health and well-being in some capacity. Since quality of sleep is being disturbed, people with sleep apnoea never wake feeling fully refreshed, and often complain of feeling tired and sleepy during the day.

What Are the Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

What Are the Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

While loud snoring is an annoyance to a sleep-deprived partner, this is just one of the effects of obstructive sleep apnoea. For the sufferer, it can cause a number of issues, ranging from sleepiness and memory loss, at the mild end of the spectrum, to more serious problems, such as chronic asthma, diabetes, heart disease and lung problems.

Basically, any health concern you have is compounded by obstructive sleep apnoea because it puts extra stress and strain on your body to get the oxygen it needs. 

How Does Being Overweight Cause Sleep Apnoea?

People who are overweight are more likely to develop the disorder because they have fat deposits that restrict breathing in the upper airways and neck area. Men who are overweight, have a large neck and abdominal area and sleep on their back, especially have a higher risk of obstructive sleep apnoea. 

Being overweight not only causes sleep apnoea, but it can also start a vicious cycle that can be hard to break. Lack of sleep means you’ll feel tired and lethargic throughout the day. This leads to an increase in hunger, eating more food, putting on more weight, and exacerbating the condition. 

Can Weight Loss Surgery Help Sleep Apnoea?

Losing weight is one of the best ways to improve sleep apnoea. For mild cases of sleep apnoea, an improved diet and increased exercise can encourage a better night’s sleep and reduce the risk of developing more serious conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.   

However, if you have a BMI of over 35 and suffer from severe sleep apnoea, then diet and exercise may not be enough to give you the long-term results you desire. In this case, you may need to consider weight loss surgery. Weight loss surgery can have a positive influence on obese patients who undergo gastric sleeve and gastric bypass procedures and is now seen to have a role in treating or curing Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

At North Eastern Weight Loss Surgery we specialise in all forms of weight loss and obesity surgery. Start your weight loss journey by contacting us today to discuss your options.

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