Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that could affect you after weight gain. Although you may not even realize that it’s happening, it can cause fatigue during the day, and eventually contribute to sleep deprivation, heart disease and diabetes.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing for short periods of time while sleeping. You might stop breathing for as little as 10 seconds or as long as a minute or more. This can occur up to 30 times per hour. Obesity-related sleep apnea is usually caused by obstruction, which is when the soft areas of the throat collapse and temporarily block air flow. Some sufferers of sleep apnea might also snore, because of this obstruction. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include fatigue and restlessness at night.
Chronic sleep apnea will reduce the supply of oxygen reaching the brain and other body systems, and is associated with serious long term complications as well as making you feel tired during the day. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and memory loss.
Preventing Sleep Apnea at Home
Sleep apnea is common among people with a BMI of 30 or more, so losing weight is one of the best things you can do to reduce or prevent sleep apnea. Smoking is another contributing factor, so quitting cigarettes will help. However, these are both be difficult and long term lifestyle changes and can be assisted with other ways of reducing sleep apnea.
Don’t drink alcohol or take any other muscle relaxants or sleep medications before bed. These may further relax your throat muscles during sleep and exacerbate the problem. The position of your body during sleep may also help to affect your sleep apnea. Lying on your side is better than on your back, as it can help prevent the throat muscle from collapsing. It might also help to elevate your upper body with pillows by 30 degrees or so.
Another method of preventing sleep apnea is through strengthening the muscles of the throat through singing or learning the didgeridoo (an Australian instrument that works through a complicated breathing technique). Generally, these methods are aimed toward snorers rather than those with sleep apnea, but studies have shown them to be effective for both conditions.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be treated with medical devices, such as ones which prop open the air passages, allowing you to breath normally during sleep. However, many people find these difficult to sleep with and use consistently. For persistent and severe sleep apnea that does not respond to other treatments, there are surgical options available. These may involve removing or adjusting various parts of the nose and throat, and will be tailored to individual needs.
Sleep apnea may not seem to make a difference to daily life, but it can become deadly. Avoiding sleep apnea through natural means, such as weight loss, avoiding alcohol and toning the throat muscles can help to prevent tiredness during the day, as well as eventual long term consequences to your health.