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General health is a result of all the body systems working together, so when one area is suffering, it affects others. People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have trouble getting a good night from blocked airways collapsing and end up with disrupted breathing and snoring excessively.

OSA affects anywhere from three to seven percent of people in the U.S. and more often older, overweight adults. Carrying excessive weight increases the likelihood of accumulating fat in the neck area, which obstructs breathing and leads to sleep apnea.

Weight loss can relieve OSA, with even a 10% reduction in body weight reducing sleep apnea. Conversely, having severe sleep apnea leads to weight gain! Having a bad night’s sleep affects your body’s production of hormones that regulate appetite. Couple that with daytime fatigue leaving you sluggish and without enough energy to exercise makes it that much harder to lose weight.

Weight Loss for Sleep Apnea

Changes in diet and exercise can also make a big difference since over 60% of patients who are referred for a diagnostic sleep evaluation are typically over their ideal weight. Even a reduction of 10%-15% of body weight lessens the severity of sleep apnea anywhere from 30%-50%.

Not surprisingly, belly fat increases the risk of sleep apnea and diabetes with the likelihood of sleep apnea rising if you have excess body fat in the neck and waist areas. This body fat can both restrict the breathing airways and make breathing in general harder.

Sleep and the Body

Feeling tired all day also leads to caffeine consumption, which also makes it harder to fall asleep. If you have GERD, gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux, diet and sleep are intertwined. GERD arises at night in adults and is often reported along with insomnia and sleep apnea. Lack of sleep impacts metabolism as sleepless nights increase one’s appetite as leptin levels drop (a hormone that regulates the appetite). Excessive daytime fatigue tends to make you feel hungry, and you want to eat instead of sleeping.

Diet Tips

Work with your doctor to find a nutritional plan that works for you. The following are easy changes to make:

– Stick to nutrient and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like pears, apples, raspberries, citrus fruits and winter squash, broccoli, cabbage, artichokes, sweet potatoes, and Brussel sprouts.

– Replace high-fat dairy with low-fat dairy rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin D like skim milk, part-skim mozzarella cheese, and low-fat yogurt.

– Switch to fiber-rich whole grain breads and cereals, old-fashioned oats, wild or brown rice, whole wheat spaghetti, pearled barley, and air-popped popcorn.

– Cook with different oils: canola, olive, vegetable, safflower, sunflower or flaxseed.

Boost Weight Loss With Exercise

Exercise helps with weight loss, and when you exercise matters. Even though working out increases alertness, revs up the metabolism, and energizes you, avoid exercising right before bedtime. The best time to work out is in the late afternoon or at least three hours before bedtime. This gives your body time for your body temperature to cool down which helps with sleep. Be sure to speak with your doctor to find an exercise program that is right for you.

Losing weight can help relieve sleep apnea symptoms. To learn more about treating sleep apnea, we welcome you to give us a call today and schedule a consultation with our sleep specialist.