As you may already know, untreated sleep apnea has been known to contribute to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and poor diabetic control. But did you know that treating sleep apnea may also help you to lose weight?

It is estimated that 65% of Americans are overweight and 63% of Americans get less sleep than the amount recommended. Recent research has demonstrated that the number of hours we sleep has a direct effect on our weight. Those who sleep less than the necessary 7-9 hours per night or who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to gain weight over time. There are two major reasons behind this weight gain:

  1. Less sleep causes us to have less energy during the day, making us less likely to be physically active.
  2. Sleep deprivation alters the production of two hormones related to weight – Leptin and Grehlin

Levels of Leptin, which controls feelings of fullness, are lowered. Levels of Grehlin, which regulates feelings of hunger, are raised. This makes us more likely to overeat and crave high carbohydrate and high-fat foods as we look for a quick fix for our appetite.

For people who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, episodic pauses in breathing thoughout the night fragments sleep. Even if they sleep 8 hours per night, the constant fragmentation in sleep amounts to chronic sleep deprivation. The resulting weight gain creates a vicious cycle of worsening sleep apnea and continued weight gain. This is why it is important to identify and treat sleep apnea to break the cycle.

Angela Mueller APNP, FNP-C, Nurse Practitioner