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How Weight Loss Helps Improve Sleep Apnoea

 Weight Loss Helps Improve Sleep Apnoea Weight Loss Helps Improve Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea and weight have been linked for some time now, with obesity acknowledged as one of the primary risk factors in developing the sleep disorder. Around half of all sleep apnoea sufferers are overweight. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the most common form of the disorder. 

When you sleep, the muscles in the upper airways relax. People who are obese will have additional amounts of tissue in the upper airways, placing them at more risk of OSA. This is because the additional accumulated tissue can change the shape of the airways or see the airways increasingly prone to collapse when the muscles relax due to the additional weight. 

Therefore, losing weight is beneficial to OSA sufferers, as well as helping to improve other health concerns such as blood pressure. Yet weight loss alone is only likely to reduce the severity of sleep apnoea rather than completely eliminate the disorder.

Lose Weight To Reduce Sleep Apnoea Severity

Those who suffer with OSA can experience different levels of severity, determined by the number of interruptions to their sleep. People who experience between 5 to 15 apnoeas or awakenings every hour while sleeping are said to have mild sleep apnoea. 

Those who fall in to this bracket are the ones who could possibly see their symptoms completely disappear by losing weight. One study involving 72 overweight patients who switched to a low-calorie diet, combined with advice on changing their lifestyles, saw them have significant drop in body mass index (BMI). They also found a sizeable reduction in the number of apnoeas they experienced when sleeping. Overall, three quarters of the study patients had a decrease in their sleep apnoea.

Also Helps Severe OSA

In a separate study, a group of patients with severe OSA managed to reduce their average number of apnoeas per hour by 25 after losing weight. 

Yet in this study group the average number of apnoeas still being experienced every sleeping hour was 30, meaning they were now in the moderate to severe category. 

This is still a noteworthy reduction, helping them receive more restorative sleep, but it means weight loss alone for more severe sufferers of OSA will not see a complete elimination of their sleep disorder symptoms.

Losing Weight as Part of a Lifestyle Change

Modern life is often sedentary and many social gatherings can be centred around eating. It takes more planning and consideration to incorporate exercise and good dietary habits in to our daily lives so we can maintain a healthy weight. 

Weight gain can be all too easy, a scenario which can become a vicious cycle locked in with sleep deprivation. The poorer our sleep the less motivation to exercise and to eat a balanced diet. We tend to opt for more comfort food which is high in calories leading to further weight gain. As we become obese, the greater the risk of sleep apnoea and more sleep problems.

When diagnosed with sleep apnoea, lifestyle and dietary changes will be discussed by your doctor if weight is a factor in developing the disorder. Any subsequent weight loss will need to be tailored to the individual, taking in to account present levels of fitness, medical history and any medications currently being taken. 

Ideally, losing weight should be viewed as a long-term lifestyle change however tempting it is to look for a diet which offers a quick short term fix.

Modifying your diet, eating habits and exercise regime can not only reduce your sleep apnoea symptoms -- but also provide an ongoing lifestyle where you feel fit, healthier and more energetic. Just a modest reduction in weight could be beneficial to your health. 

Losing 5 to 10% of body weight if you are overweight can see improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. Losing weight can also ease joint pain and increase your vitality.

Your doctor will appreciate that losing weight can be difficult and exercise routines tough to stick to at first. It takes commitment. Therefore, it is important to keep the ultimate goal constantly in mind, the reasons why you are making these important changes. Not only can your doctor support you, but having a network of family and close friends around you will help support and boost you when you need it most. 

Sleep Apnoea Treatment

As important as losing weight is in helping reduce the symptoms of sleep apnoea, it is important to remember it is unlikely to eliminate them completely, especially if your degree of the disorder is severe. 

Lifestyle and dietary changes will be part of a treatment plan to restore you to good nights of uninterrupted restorative sleep. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is one of the leading treatments for OSA, using air pressure applied through a mask worn overnight to help keep the upper airways open.

Some people notice an improvement straight away in their sleep when they start using CPAP, while for others the effects can take longer. However, while CPAP helps remove the symptoms of CPAP, losing weight through lifestyle changes addresses one of the primary risk factors in the disorder. 

Yet by using CPAP and getting better nights of rest you will feel more refreshed and less fatigued during the day. This in turn can see you more motivated to exercise and eat right.

Weight and Sleep Apnoea

Although sleep apnoea will not necessarily vanish as you lose weight, the benefits should still be noticeable, not just to your sleep pattens but in your overall health and mood. 

Working with your doctor, you should find the forms of exercise which work for you and with which you are most likely to persist. Healthy eating will be just as key. This will involve a balanced diet including more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish, pulses and nuts.

Modern life is not set up to encourage healthy lifestyles, they need some planning and application. Sleep is a crucial part of our health. Indeed your body does not stop working as you sleep, continuing to burn calories as it repairs the body from the day’s activities. 

Obstructive sleep apnoea unchecked can lead to serious health consequences such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. As obesity is a primary risk factor in sleep apnoea, losing weight is important in reducing the severity of the disorder, allowing the body more of the restorative sleep it needs.

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Author: Jenny Hall

About author: Jenny Hall is a clinical manager at Baywater Healthcare. She has extensive specialist clinical experience from Regional Nurse Adviser through to Senior Nurse Adviser, Service Lead and Contract Manager. She has provided leadership for the Regional Nurse Advisers ensuring best practice, implementation of National Guidance and Clinical Governance. Ms. Hall has worked with Baywater Healthcare since 2013, with leadership responsibility in delivering Home Oxygen and Long-Term Conditions services. Her clinical team focuses on delivering services closer to home which offer the NHS value with optimum clinical outcomes. Previously, Ms. Hall provided leadership to Regional Nurse Advisors with Air Products, a company providing home oxygen services to Wales, East Midlands and North London. She has served as a Senior COPD National Trainer and Nurse Adviser COPD Response with Innovex, ensuring highest competencies were maintained and best practices delivered. Ms. Hall has a Ba Honours Degree as a Registered General Nurse from Oxford Brookes University and MSc Health Studies from Staffordshire University. She completed Respiratory Education and Training Courses and the Edinburgh Sleep Course. Jenny Hall’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-hall-34331b60/

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