Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Losing Weight May Be Best Route to Curing Sleep Apnea

Although the connection between obesity and sleep apnea is not fully understood, doctors suggest that the best cure for sleep apnea may be weight loss. In a published response to a question about sleep apnea, Mayo Clinic researcher Virend Somers M.D., Ph.D, said that weight loss was the best way to approach a sleep apnea problem.

The doctor first pointed out, as we have discussed, that weight gain contributed to obstructive sleep apnea by placing additional weight on the airway during sleep. However, he also noted that being overweight affects the nerve signals from the brain to the airway. The result is that the muscles in the airway lose tone and become flaccid, which makes them less able to keep the airway open, especially when relaxed during sleep. Interestingly, no one knows why the signals change. Some point to the hormone leptin (you can read more about the correlation between sleep apnea and leptin levels in this blog), saying that too much leptin could affect breathing control.

Because of this twofold contribution of being overweight to sleep apnea, it certainly seems that weight loss as part of a comprehensive program of behavioral therapy is a good first step. At the very least, losing weight will probably reduce the volume and frequency of snoring, and it may reduce severe sleep apnea to a moderate level that can be controlled with oral appliance therapy as opposed to the less convenient CPAP.

If you would like to learn more about the best approaches for tackling your sleep apnea, schedule a sleep apnea consultation at the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois.

posted by Dr. Candelaria at 11:37 AM