Weight and Sleep Apnea: The Link In Between

Over the years, innovations aiding weight loss arise due to more people are becoming aware of the consequences of excess weight. It has been proven through studies and clinical data that being on the overweight spectrum can lead to numerous lifestyle related diseases.

One disorder that is being overlooked is Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea falls under the umbrella term Sleep-Disordered Breathing which means “several chronic conditions in which partial or complete stopping of breathing occurs many times throughout the night, resulting in daytime sleepiness or fatigue that interferes with a person’s ability to function and reduces quality of life”.


Signs and symptoms


The main symptoms like snoring and daytime fatigue or sleepiness are so common that they may not be viewed as abnormal, hence only a few people go for a diagnostic study to confirm the presence of SDB. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is by far the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing. By the term “obstructive”, this means something is obstructing the upper airway preventing normal breathing.


As we know, if we lose breath for a few or even several seconds, the oxygen level in our body drops. Now imagine if a person loses his breath for 10 seconds or more during sleep every night for 30-50 times per hour. Seems impossible? No, it is not. The long-term effects of this deadly cycle every night leads to more serious illnesses such as heart problems, hypertension, diabetes, and even behavioural changes. The latter is believable since all of us know, when we don’t get enough sleep or our sleep is constantly disturbed, we get a little grumpy through the day.


The Cause


Then, what causes it? No single cause of sleep apnea had been identified. It is a multi-factorial disorder, although the associations with weight and neck circumference are well known. The upper airway in OSA patients are smaller than normal. It may be narrowed by fat deposition around the neck in overweight or obese individuals, or other structural problems such as short airway length, recessed chin, or large tongue. So what if the airway is narrow? The problem lies during sleep, especially in deep sleep, when the muscles of our throat relax. Those with narrow airways during wakefulness will have even smaller or blocked airways during sleep. Therefore, snoring coupled with several arousals at night occur. Next thing you hear, people with OSA often complain of waking up still feeling sleepy or unrefreshed, regardless of 7 to 8 hours of sleep time every night.


Weight Loss Can Cure OSA, Study Shows


With the relationship of excess weight and OSA explained, we now come to the conclusion that for overweight patients, doctors will often recommend weight loss management, regardless of OSA severity. For milder cases, prevention of weight gain and obesity is critical for reducing the risk of developing severe OSA. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, losing weight can cure Obstructive Sleep Apnea in overweight patients. "Very low calorie diet (VLCD) combined with active lifestyle counseling resulting in marked weight reduction is a feasible and effective treatment for the majority of patients with mild OSA, and the achieved beneficial outcomes are maintained at 1-year follow-up," wrote Henri P.I. Tuomilehto, M.D., Ph.D., of the department of Otorhinolaryngology at the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland. In this study, we can say that there appears to be a fairly straightforward relationship between weight loss and OSA severity.





The Emergence of the Gastric Balloon


Now we know that not everyone can tolerate severe caloric restriction diet, so with the help of science and technology the gastric balloon was created. A gastric balloon is placed in the stomach and occupies approximately one-third of the stomach’s volume. This causes the stomach to empty very slowly, preventing overeating and lessening food cravings.



Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon

Getting the Spatz adjustable gastric balloon is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure. No incision or hospitalisation required.


If you are or know someone who is overweight, snores, suffers from persistent daytime sleepiness, and/or has a neck circumference of at least 17 inches, consult with your doctor. You or your loved one may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, consider a gastric balloon as a way to help lose weight and sleep better.



Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT), Mary Lyn Besmonte

Mary Lyn is a registered Nurse, Respiratory Therapist and Polysomnographic Technologist at The Air Station. She has an interest in sleep medicine and conducts training as a clinical instructor. She has successfully helped and supported many patients throughout their therapy journey.


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