Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain: How Can You Break Free of the Vicious Cycle?

March 26, 2024
Overweight woman standing on scale

A recent estimate states that around 2 in 5 adults have obesity. Sadly, many of those individuals find it difficult to get high-quality sleep due to obstructive sleep apnea. It is not a coincidence that these two problems often occur together. In fact, sleep apnea and weight gain can create a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape from. How exactly are these issues related, and what can you do to cope with both of them? This blog post provides some practical information.

Weight Gain Can Worsen Sleep Quality

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder that is characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. While many different factors can contribute to it, extra fatty tissue often plays a role in its development. Excessive weight around the neck and abdomen can place pressure on the airway, making it more difficult to breathe during sleep. The airway might even get completely closed off.

People with OSA are often exhausted because nighttime disturbances in breathing prevent them from getting high-quality, rejuvenating rest.

Sleep Apnea Can Contribute to Weight Gain

Poor-quality sleep can contribute to unwanted weight gain in a few ways:

  • Ghrelin levels may increase. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite.
  • Leptin levels may decrease. Leptin is a hormone that signals fullness and satiety.
  • Insulin resistance may increase. Insulin resistance is associated with increased fat storage.
  • Low-quality sleep can decrease motivation to exercise. As a result, many people with OSA do not get enough physical activity to maintain their desired weight.

How to Break Free

It can be disheartening to think about the vicious cycle created by weight gain and sleep apnea. But you can break free! Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Seek sleep apnea treatment. You might be a candidate for a custom oral appliance, which can help to keep your airway open during sleep. Once your sleep quality improves, the hormones that influence hunger and satiety may become more balanced.
  • Design a reasonable eating plan. Instead of trying to stick to an extremely strict diet, continue to enjoy the foods you love while still keeping proper nutrition in mind. A nutritionist may be able to help you with this.
  • Move your body. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity each week. A few strength training sessions each week are also recommended. Not only can exercise burn calories, but it also promotes high-quality sleep!
  • Have realistic expectations. Even modest weight loss can lead to improvements in sleep quality. Instead of trying to “get skinny,” focus on adopting good habits that will support your long-term wellness.

Weight gain and sleep apnea are often related. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to deal with both issues.

Meet the Practice

Dr. Kenneth Mogell is a dentist who is board-certified in dental sleep medicine. For more than a decade, he has focused on helping patients conquer their OSA via oral appliance therapy. If you would like to find out how he and our team may be able to serve you, contact any of our three convenient locations or call our Melbourne office at 321-265-3462.