Is sleep apnea making me fat?

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder that is caused when the soft tissues of the mouth and palate fall back and temporarily block the breathing passages. People with sleep apnea have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during their sleep due to an obstruction. These breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can happen hundreds of times throughout their sleep. Breathing eventually resumes with a loud gasp or a snort for air, as the person is temporarily woken up from a deep sleep. One of the many medical consequences of sleep apnea includes excess weight gain or obesity. A physical indication of sleep apnea can be a neck size greater than 17.5 inches (for men), others include: having a small upper airway, large tongue, tonsils, or uvula; having a recessed chin, small jaw, or a large overbite; smoking and alcohol use; and being 40 or older.

In a study published by International Journal of Obesity, researches from the University of Helsinki found that among 5,700 middle-aged women, those who struggled with weight gain also had difficulty sleeping, in comparison to their peers who got the recommended eight hours a night. In another clinical study performed by University of Colorado Boulder, Dr. Kenneth Wright and colleagues found that men who only slept five hours a night put on two pounds within one week, yikes! “Just getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain. But when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they actually need”, Dr. Wright.

So how exactly does the lack of sleep affects our ability to control weight ? It has to do with hormones- Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight. Many obese people have built up a resistance to the appetite-suppressing effects of leptin. When we are sleep-deprived, research has discovered that our bodies produce more ghrelin and less leptin. In addition, those who are overweight are more likely to develop Sleep Apnea.

Another hormone affected by sleep disorders is insulin. When you do not sleep well, your cells block insulin’s efforts to transmit glucose into our cells, placing u at a higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Also, insulin progresses the release of leptin, the “stop eating” hormone. So in conclusion- sleep deprivation causes your cells to reject insulin, making less leptin, which means more eating, and more weight gain.

Ok! So finally some good news! Raphaelson Dental Sleep Center offers free airway evaluations to determine whether there are any obstructions in the airway that can be causing obstructive sleep apnea. We also provide our patients with at convenient home sleep study that identifies and diagnoses sleep apnea. And best of all, most major medical insurance offer benefits for sleep apnea treatment.

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