Why Does Sleep Apnea Cause Weight Gain?

Why does sleep apnea cause weight gain?

Research has consistently revealed that getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night is linked to weight gain and the onset of obesity. It’s no surprise that sleep apnea, a condition known to disrupt the quantity and quality of sleep, can also be a contributing factor to weight gain. In this blog post, we’ll explore why sleep apnea can cause weight gain.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious disorder marked by interruptions in your breathing while you’re asleep. When you sleep, your throat muscles relax, causing brief moments where you stop breathing. Because your body needs oxygen, your brain and nervous system rouse you from sleep to prompt you to take a breath. This means you’re repeatedly awakened briefly throughout the night, preventing you from getting the deep, restorative sleep you need.

Why does sleep apnea cause weight gain?

While excess weight has long been known to be a risk factor for OSA, an increasing amount of evidence suggests the relationship is reciprocal. Here’s why sleep apnea can cause weight gain:

  • Fatigue: One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is fatigue and daytime sleepiness. This can result in having less energy for exercise and physical activity, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight for individuals with sleep apnea.
  • Increased Appetite and Cravings: Scientific studies have demonstrated that poor sleep patterns, as seen in sleep apnea, can trigger an increase in hunger and cravings for high-carbohydrate foods. This heightened appetite can lead to an overall increase in calorie intake and weight gain.
  • Hormonal Shifts: Sleep apnea can influence the delicate balance of hormones responsible for regulating appetite and metabolism, including insulin, leptin, and ghrelin.
  • Insulin: Sleep apnea tends to increase the risk of insulin resistance, a condition closely linked to excess body weight and diabetes. Insulin resistance promotes weight gain by encouraging fat storage and increasing feelings of hunger.
  • Leptin: Despite being a hormone typically associated with weight loss, people with sleep apnea often exhibit elevated leptin levels. This suggests that sleep apnea may be linked to leptin resistance, a condition where the body becomes less responsive to the weight-reducing effects of this hormone.
  • Ghrelin: Often referred to as the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin levels are heightened in individuals with sleep apnea. This could explain their increased appetite, ultimately leading to higher food consumption and weight gain.

Can Treating Sleep Apnea Aid in Weight Loss? 

Research suggests that individuals undergoing CPAP therapy for sleep apnea tend to increase their physical activity levels, which can have a meaningful impact on overall health.

Furthermore, there are notable shifts in ghrelin and leptin levels shortly after starting sleep apnea treatment. These hormonal alterations are likely to enhance appetite control, making it easier for those with sleep apnea to adhere to a balanced, reduced-calorie diet. When combined with increased physical activity, these changes could certainly aid in weight loss.

Can sleep apnea be treated with weight loss? 

Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives,can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Although these lifestyle changes can make a difference, they are often not enough to completely treat sleep apnea alone. 

The best treatment for you will depend on the severity of your sleep apnea, your overall health, and your personal preferences.

People suffering from sleep apnea are at an increased risk for a number of serious health complications, including hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, among others.

If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, Ognomy can connect you virtually to a board-certified sleep specialist in your state who can diagnose, test, and treat your sleep apnea, all from the comfort of your own home.

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