The Link Between Obesity and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a serious condition that makes it difficult to breathe while sleeping, which leads to cardiovascular problems, fatigue, and snoring. OSA is estimated to affect 2-9% of adults in the United States. Among these patients, around 70% are described as overweight or obese. If you’re struggling with OSA, a specialist can help you find a solution; and that specialist might very well be your dentist! 

The Smile Agency has locations in Downtown Pasadena and West Covina, California. Karen Guinn, DDS, is a board-certified orthodontist with experience in multiple conditions, including sleep apnea. If the underlying cause of your OSA is obesity, losing weight is the permanent solution. In the meantime, oral appliances and CPAP machines can help you find a good night’s sleep.

A quick look at sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It occurs when the muscles in your throat relax too much, which causes your upper airway to become partially or fully blocked. When your body isn’t receiving enough oxygen, it wakes itself up to correct the issue and re-open your airway. 

Many people with OSA don’t realize they’re experiencing interrupted sleep, because your body doesn’t fully wake up to correct the issue. Instead, you snore, snort, or jerk in your sleep. However, the effects of sleep apnea are still there and can affect your waking hours. 

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include: 

Snoring and snorting in your sleep can also cause friction if you share a bedroom with a partner or roommate. 

Obesity and sleep apnea

While not all overweight people experience sleep apnea, most people with severe OSA are obese. The exact link between these two conditions isn’t clear, but there are some theories. 

One theory suggests that the excess fat around the throat, chin, and neck can put weight on your airways, which causes them to relax and narrow in your sleep. This is supported by the fact that many people who lose weight experience a decrease in upper airway collapsibility. 

Another theory states that hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome, two conditions common in overweight people, are linked to sleep apnea as well. 

Finding a treatment that works 

The typical line of treatment from your medical doctor may be a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This involves wearing a large mask with a hose that forces air into your airway while you sleep to keep it from closing. This can be cumbersome, uncomfortable, and disruptive to any sleeping partner.

Your dentist may have a better solution. They can design and fabricate an appliance to help position your jaw while you sleep, preventing your throat muscles from relaxing and letting you breathe normally. Once you start getting decent rest, you’ll notice that you feel more energized and awake during the day. This can give you the energy to exercise and focus on other aspects of your health. 

Are you suffering from sleep apnea? Book a consultation with Dr. Guinn by calling our office closest to you or requesting an appointment online today. 

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