young adult woman having a restless nights sleep wear a nasal CPAP maskObesity has been a growing epidemic in the US for decades now. From 2000 to 2020, the rate of US rate of obesity rose from just over 30% to just under 42%. At the same time, the severe obesity rate nearly doubled, increasing from 4.7% to 9.2%.

Since weight gain leads to obstructive sleep apnea, we have seen a similar rise in sleep apnea. We don’t have a good estimate for sleep apnea rates since 80% or more of those with the condition remain undiagnosed. Once a person develops obesity and sleep apnea, the two conditions worsen each other, making it hard to get healthy. That’s where Fort Atkinson sleep dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford can help. She can offer comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment that breaks the cycle so you can feel better.

How Obesity Contributes to Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is when you stop breathing at night because your airway closes. During the day, gravity and your muscles hold your airway open. When you lie down, gravity pulls your airway closed. Then, when you fall asleep, your muscles relax, letting your airway collapse.

Obesity makes your airway more likely to collapse. Fatty deposits on your tongue and elsewhere can narrow your airway. Systemic inflammation further contributes to a narrowed airway. This causes problems with breathing during the day as well as at night.

In addition, fat deposits weigh down your airway, making it harder for your muscles to hold it open when they relax.

Why Sleep Apnea Leads to More Eating and Weight Gain

Once a person develops sleep apnea in Fort Atkinson, it can directly lead to worsening obesity.

First of all, poor sleep can lead to an increase in caloric intake. People who are sleepy during the day may lean on snacking to help them stay awake. Or they may turn to caffeinated drinks, which often contain fat, sugar, or artificial sweeteners that can, paradoxically, contribute to weight gain.

Along with leaning on snacks and beverages to stay awake, poor sleep can lead to poor impulse control. People are more likely to eat foods they know they shouldn’t. This can make it hard to stick to any diet in an attempt to lose weight.

The impact on eating and weight gain isn’t just psychological. Sleep apnea can dramatically impact your metabolism. Two powerful hormones that regulate appetite and energy are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that decreases hunger. Ghrelin, on the other hand, increases hunger and fat storage. Obesity leads to leptin resistance: it doesn’t work as well to control your appetite. When you have sleep disrupted by sleep apnea, your body will produce more leptin and more ghrelin. This means that you are more likely to be hungry. Your high leptin levels won’t control your hunger, but they can contribute to high blood pressure.

Why Sleep Apnea Makes It Hard to Exercise

Sleep apnea makes it harder to do anything. Daytime sleepiness and chronic fatigue are hallmarks of the condition. When you have sleep apnea in Fort Atkinson, it’s hard to make yourself do anything optional, including getting exercise that you know will help you feel better.

Sleep apnea has another impact: it decreases your ability to exercise. One measure of how much you can exercise is how much oxygen your body takes up and utilizes when exercising. People with sleep apnea may have 14% less oxygen uptake than people without sleep apnea. Since oxygen uptake is directly related to calories burned, this means that people with sleep apnea, working as hard as they can, will burn 14% fewer calories, making it harder for them to get enough exercise to lose weight.

Which to Treat First?

If obesity and sleep apnea make each other worse, it can be hard to know where to start when you are trying to combat both these conditions.

In our traditionally individualistic society, many people are convinced that they should start by trying to lose weight. It seems like something they can choose to do. Choose to diet. Choose to exercise. Lose weight and therefore improve your sleep apnea.

However, as we’ve seen, it’s not that easy. The impacts of sleep apnea short-circuit our ability to make some of these choices. Although sleep apnea doesn’t make it impossible to lose weight, it makes this already difficult task too hard for many people.

In addition, sleep apnea has serious, potentially deadly complications: high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke, to name a few. Many of these are shared with obesity, but sleep apnea can make the risks more acute.

Because of these risks, people in Fort Atkinson who suspect sleep apnea should be tested for the condition and get treatment as soon as possible. Since treating sleep apnea can also help people lose weight, it can be a powerful way to break the cycle of weight gain and sleep apnea.

CPAP Alternatives in Fort Atkinson

What makes many people reluctant to start treating sleep apnea is that they don’t want to get continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Although CPAP is an effective sleep apnea treatment, it can be very uncomfortable and hard to adapt to.

However, CPAP isn’t the only treatment option for sleep apnea. Fort Atkinson sleep dentist Dr. Jennifer Stafford can determine whether you are a good candidate for oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy is more comfortable than CPAP and just as effective for many people. This gives you an easy way to treat your sleep apnea, start losing weight, and take control of your life again.

If you want to learn about this CPAP alternative in Fort Atkinson, please call (920) 563-7323 or use our online form to request an appointment at Bite Align, located across the street from Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts near the Johnson Bank in Fort Atkinson.