Is Dieting The Ultimate Sleep Apnea Cure?

Everyone once and a while everyone considers shedding a few pounds, but this is generally with the goal of looking slimmer and fighting into your favorite pair of tight jeans. However, losing weight could do more for you on the inside than the outside, by sisting with sleep apnea symptoms and improving your overall health.

Obesity And Sleep Apnea

Obesity contributes to sleep apnea

Although you don’t have to be overweight to have sleep apnea, there is a strong connection between obesity and experiencing this chronic sleep disorder. If you are obese (with a body mass index [BMI] of 25 or higher), you are twice as likely to have sleep apnea as someone who does not obese.

To make matters worse, gaining weight can increase complications. Patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who gain 10% of their baseline weight are at a sixfold-increased rate of progression of OSA, leading to more moderate to severe cases.

While there is a strong connection between a high BMI and sleep apnea, a healthy weight does not make you immune from obstructive sleep apnea. A substantial proportion of patients with OSA are not obese.

Other risk factors that contribute to sleep apnea include:

  • Being male
  • Being age 60 or older
  • Having narrow airways
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Smoking/Alcohol use
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • Having a neck circumference of 17” for men, 16” for women.

How Exactly Does Obesity Contribute To Sleep Apnea?

Being overweight contributes to sleep apnea in a variety of ways:

With obstructive sleep apnea, the soft tissues of your throat collapse, blocking your airways. By having more fatty tissue around the neck, the risk of this occurring greatly increases. Fatigue and sleep deprivation brought on by sleep apnea or other sources may alter the hormones that control your appetite. For example, sleep deprivation may cause your body to produce more ghrelin, the hormone that controls your sugar cravings to increase, making it harder to resist sweet treats and fatty snacks that will temporarily fuel your body with energy before causing a crash.

Sleep deprivation may also cause your body to produce less leptin,  which is responsible for telling your body it’s full. Meaning poor sleep can cause you to feel hungrier than you actually are, leading to overeating.

The foods you eat may lead to inflammation as explained by Tara Clancy, M.A.,

"Dieting can vastly improve sleep apnea in two ways:

1) If you’re overweight, dieting can help reduce the fat in the neck area. This is important because fat in the neck area makes less room for air to pass through as we inhale and exhale.

2) If you’re dealing with food sensitivities, a diet which avoids personal “trigger” foods can help reduce inflammation overall. This is important because inflammation leads to breathing problems in general, with nasal congestion being the first domino to fall on the road to developing sleep apnea.”

Examples of food that commonly cause inflammation include:

  • Alcohol
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial trans fats

So Dieting And Exercise Can Cure Sleep Apnea?

Maybe. While dieting and exercising can certainly help you feel better, OSA may make it harder to shed extra pounds. Along with feeling hungrier and craving more sweets, sleep apnea symptoms also include feeling fatigued. This may make it more difficult to have the energy and motivation to work out.

Plus, sleep apnea can affect your metabolism by causing low systemic inflammation or a heightened systemic inflammatory state which can slow your metabolism, making it more difficult to burn calories. Success comes from actually treating sleep apnea along with adopting a healthier lifestyle.

study out of Sweden was able to demonstrate that by putting CPAP users on a low-calorie diet (500 calories a day to be exact) the participants had lost on average 24 pounds, and had reduced the severity of their sleep apnea symptoms by 58%! Another study found on average, a 10% weight loss produces an improvent of 50%  in the apnea-hypopnea index.

Checking back on these same participants a year later revealed that 48% of them didn’t need to use their CPAP machine, and 10% had effectively cured their sleep apnea. In addition, the study was able to show that the more pounds participants dropped, the more their sleep apnea symptoms improved as well.

A Diet And Sleep Apnea Case Study

Let’s a take a look at Jim Uren, a man who has enjoyed a better quality of life since being diagnosed with sleep apnea. He went from being depressed, fatigued, and almost nodding off at the wheel to losing 150 pounds and getting his motivation and energy back.

After Jim started using his CPAP it was like a miracle, all of his symptoms disappeared. However, in his individual case, he didn’t exactly want to use a machine every night and looked for an alternative.

That’s why he started eating better and got to moving to shed extra weight. After 7 years he was medically cleared of sleep apnea. He beat the life-threatening condition that at one time held his life captive, by making him too tired to happily function.

The takeaway here is that, yes losing weight can be an effective way to live healthier and reduce sleep apnea symptoms. However, it’s important to use a CPAP, the most effective method to treat sleep apnea as directed by your doctor until you’re medically cleared.

Because there are multiple sleep apnea causes, it’s highly important that you connect with your doctor to determine if weight loss could make a difference with your individual case.

How To Make CPAP Therapy More Comfortable

Jim had a few personal discomforts with the use of CPAP machine, but in the time that he’s been medically cleared advancements have been made to CPAP therapy to improve user comfort. So, we will address the potential problems and solutions.

  1. Learning to sleep
    Jim didn't enjoy using his CPAP mask, but maybe he didn’t have the right one. There are new modern designs such as the AifFit F30 that has a weightless feel. It doesn’t have a forehead strap with a soft, flexible frame and the mask creates an effective seal with minimal facial contact.
  2. Loud Machines
    Maybe in the past older CPAP machines may have made loud whirling sounds, and maks made you feel like Darth Vader, but times have changed. The Transcend Mini actually operates at 29 dBA, that’s the sound of a whisper. Some masks also have built-in air diffusers to quietly disperse exhaled air.
  3. Traveling
    Alright, traveling with anything has the potential to be difficult, but traveling with a CPAP is simple. They make travel CPAPs like the  Z1 that weigh less than a pound. They can easily fit in any bag and often come with their own travel cases. Plus, because they are a medical device, they don’t count as a carry on item. Go ahead travel with your CPAP and even use it to sleep on the plane.
  4. CPAP Cleaning
    Alright, the difficulty of cleaning your CPAP supplies depends on your technique. Sure, washing everything by hand and waiting for them to dry is a hassle, but there are easier ways. With the Lumin CPAP cleaner, you can clean your CPAP parts in as little as 5 minutes without the use of water or harmful chemicals.
  5. High Costs
    What? CPAP equipment may be covered through insurance! Even the resupply items that need to be regularly replaced may be covered. If you don’t go the insurance route, we offer CPAP equipment at the lowest prices possible to help you get your health back.