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The Link Between Obesity and Sleep Apnea

The Link Between Obesity and Sleep Apnea

Do you wake up with a sore throat? Do you ever feel drowsy all day long, no matter how much sleep you get? These are just two common signs of sleep apnea. And, if you’re overweight or obese, they could be connected.

Up to 9% of American adults have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious medical condition that causes a person to stop breathing, sometimes hundreds of times a night. However, each interruption can be so brief that you don’t realize it’s happening.

Unfortunately, sleep apnea can contribute to dangerous complications, including cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, daytime fatigue, and other health problems. But there’s hope. 

Our team at Bucktown Wicker Park Dental in Chicago, Illinois, can treat sleep apnea, offering state-of-the-art oral appliances designed to relieve your symptoms, improve your health, and fit your lifestyle.

Sleep apnea basics

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when soft tissue and muscles at the back of your throat relax and collapse into your airway while you’re sleeping. This blockage interferes with normal breathing, although an episode may last only a few seconds at a time. 

Once your brain senses the drop in oxygen, it triggers a waking response, causing you to gasp or choke. Sometimes, these episodes are so brief you may not wake up enough to realize they’re happening. In those instances, you only have the telltale symptoms when you wake up, such as:

Sleep apnea also often causes snoring, which, even if you don’t notice it, can leave you with an unhappy sleep partner.

The obesity and sleep apnea connection

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, even those who aren’t obese or overweight. However, data show that most individuals with severe OSA also carry excess pounds.

Nearly three-quarters of people with OSA are also overweight or obese. Experts suspect the excess fatty tissue around the neck and throat contributes to symptoms. In fact, studies show that considerable weight loss often leads to a significant decrease in the “collapsibility” of the upper airway. However, excess abdominal fat could also interfere with nighttime breathing by compressing the lungs and chest wall. 

In addition to the physical involvement of extra pounds with sleep apnea, medical problems associated with obesity could also play a role, like hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome

As you might expect, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of obesity-related sleep apnea involves shedding excess pounds. However, that’s not a simple task or one that happens overnight, especially if you have OSA. That’s because OSA can affect the hormones that make you feel hungry and full, making it difficult to lose weight until you treat your sleep apnea.

Finding solutions for sleep apnea

Most people have heard of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine for treating sleep apnea, as it’s one of the most commonly prescribed treatments. However, it’s not always the best choice. This treatment requires wearing a large mask while you sleep, something not all patients tolerate well.

A CPAP mask funnels a continuous supply of air into your airway during sleep to keep your airway open. While effective, these devices tend to feel uncomfortable and are noisy and cumbersome, so people may not use them as prescribed. And, if that’s the case, you’re not getting its benefits. 

At Bucktown Wicker Park Dental, our team offers another solution: oral devices custom-made for you. Our dental appliances work in different ways to keep your airway open while you sleep, like gently repositioning your jaw, without the need for forced air. 

This personalized approach offers highly effective results, and our devices are also more comfortable, quiet, and completely portable. After fitting you with your oral device, we check in regularly to ensure it fits correctly and is helping you manage your sleep apnea symptoms. 

Obesity affects your health in several ways, and there’s a clear link to sleep apnea. In addition to your efforts to shed extra pounds, the right sleep apnea treatment is essential in helping to improve your (and your partner’s) sleep. Book an appointment with our dental experts by calling 773-252-2303 today.

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