The Vicious Cycle Between Weight and Sleep Apnea
No one likes to be overweight, but losing weight can pose quite a challenge. If you suffer from sleep apnea, this only adds to the difficulty of losing weight. In fact, there’s a direct relationship between sleep apnea and your weight that you may not realize.
Being overweight can negatively impact your ability to breathe while you sleep, increasing your risk for sleep apnea. Additionally, excess weight can intensify other health issues connected to sleep apnea, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Conversely, if you suffer from sleep apnea, you’re more likely to become overweight. A 2011 study conducted by the International Journal of Obesity determined that sleeping troubles often lead to gaining weight. A 2013 study by the National Academy of Sciences backs up this conclusion – in their experiment, men who slept five hours or less per night gained one to two pounds per week, on average.
Does CPAP Contribute to Weight Gain?
CPAP machines are a common treatment for sleep apnea. While they’re effective for some patients, others find them too loud or uncomfortable. As a result, four out of five CPAP patients don’t use their machine through the whole night, interfering with the results of the treatment.
It’s possible that CPAP machines also cause weight gain. A 2015 study by Dr. Frank Domino found an average increase in body-mass index among CPAP users. This study examined over 3,000 patients and the results are independent of age, gender, starting weight, and CPAP compliance.
The Power of Weight Loss
If you have sleep apnea, losing weight is one of the most proven and effective long-term treatments. A 2009 study published by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that men who restricted their diet over a period of nine weeks saw a 58% improvement in the severity of their sleep apnea symptoms.
Losing weight will also reduce your risk of serious complications associated with sleep apnea such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Consequently, weight loss is the number one treatment for sleep apnea recommended by the American College of Physicians.
Enjoyable Aerobic Exercise
Many of us don’t enjoy working out – it can be boring, tiring, and uncomfortable. It also doesn’t always produce immediate results, which can lead to frustration. However, exercise improves your health by giving you energy and confidence, in addition to helping you sleep better.
Believe it or not, there are fun ways to get the healthy exercise your body needs, and fun workouts are the most valuable because you’re more likely to sustain them. Contrary to popular belief, working out doesn’t have to mean exercising as hard as you can for an hour. In fact, this can be counterproductive and unhealthy. Instead, start easy and try to find an aerobic activity you enjoy.
Think of your favorite physical activities – do you like to take hikes, or play sports? What about dancing? All of these are healthy aerobic workouts that will help keep you healthy. Just an hour of exercise four to five days per week can make a huge difference in your life.
Are you too busy to workout? Think about the time you spend watching TV, or surfing the internet. While there’s nothing wrong with either of those activities, your health is the most important thing, so try to get some exercise before you relax for the evening. Simply applying a little discipline to working out can greatly improve your quality of life.
Your Diet Can Save Your Life
Exercising is only half of the equation that improves your health. It’s also important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Although dieting is a concept that immediately intimidates many patients, you don’t need to do anything extreme to see positive results. In a 2011 study, researchers found that eating a basic Mediterranean diet can improve your sleep apnea symptoms.
The Mediterranean diet has proven to be good for heart health, and it can reduce your risk of Parkinson’s, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Best of all, it includes many foods we love and doesn’t require you to make any extreme changes, such as giving up meat or carbs.
If you want the results from your diet to last, it’s important that you’re still enjoying what you eat. According to research, diets on average reduce your weight by five to ten percent in the first six months, only for it to come back later. This is because people deprive themselves too much and end up falling off the wagon. Instead of following strict dietary rules, try to focus on eating from different food groups, reducing your caloric intake, and exercising regularly.
Most importantly, define clear goals for yourself and strive to meet them. Once you’re focused on exactly the results you want to achieve, you’ll feel motivated and find a path to success.