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Obesity & Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Before I launch into my main topic, Obesity and Obstructive Sleep Apnea, I want to update my progress with the night time eating, calories, etc. Last night, I was still pretty hungry at night and ate more calories than I'd planned (but still well within my calorie range). Today, I made an adjustment. I front-loaded more of my calories so that my 3 main meals were a little larger. I want to see if the increase in calories during the day lessens my hunger at night. It is now 7:34pm and, so far, so good.

Now, on to my main topic:

One of the big reasons I want to lose weight is to improve my health and the way I feel physically. Right now, I am always tired and always sore. Some of that is because I have severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Right now, I sleep with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine every night to make sure I keep breathing regularly and help me get more sustained, restorative sleep at night. But, I'd like to be able to ditch that machine eventually, so I decided to do some investigating. What follows are the highlights of what I learned.

According to WebMD: "In adults, the most common cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea is excess weight and obesity, which is associated with soft tissue of the mouth and throat. During sleep, when throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked."

Hard to get a good night's sleep that way, right?

In fact, people who are obese are four times as likely to have OSA than people of "normal" weight.

To make matters worse, untreated, Obstructive Sleep Apnea leads to a whole host of other medical maladies including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, elevated blood pressure, and -- you guessed it -- a slowing of the metabolism, which makes it harder to lose weight. And that's not the whole list of associated problems that can be caused by sleep apnea.

The problem with OSA and weight is one of a self-perpetuating cycle and one or the other issue can be the catalyst. But, for ease of explanation, let's just start with the OSA. Someone with OSA tends to be extremely tired ALL the time. They are more likely to fall asleep in public, have accidents at work, or fall asleep at the wheel of a car. Because of that exhaustion, exercise becomes nothing more than a dream to the person with OSA. Lack of exercise can cause some of the weight gain.

But that's not all. We have satiety hormones (leptin, ghrelin, and insulin) that help regulate our hunger, cravings, and level of satisfaction. The sleep deprivation that comes with OSA causes a disruption in those hormones, causing people with apnea to actually feel hungrier and eat more. Which leads to more weight gain.

And, as a person with OSA becomes heavier, the worse the apnea becomes.

Thus, a vicious spiral that drags the person suffering with obesity and Obstructive Sleep Apnea ever closer to calamity.

But, fear not!

That cycle CAN broken IF the person is treated for Obstructive Sleep Apnea AND loses weight. Even a small weight loss can significantly improve the apnea, as well as the person's quality and quantity of sleep.

That is what I want to accomplish for myself.

Just a few of OSA tidbits:

1. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an informal test for OSA is to measure neck circumference. In men, if the neck measures greater than 17", there is a good chance he has sleep apnea. In women, the measurement is greater than 16".

2.Doctors recommend "hydrotherapy", also known as exercising in water, for people who are obese. It makes exercise more tolerable and takes some pressure off the person's joints.

3. Men are twice as likely as women to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

4. Women with sleep apnea are more profoundly affected in the areas of the brain that regulate mood and decision-making than are men. They also benefit more from deep sleep than men.

Now, I have to go catch some zzzzz's so I'm ready to tackle my exercise for tomorrow. Our weather here in PA is supposed to be sunny and in the 70's, which is unseasonably warm for this time of year. I plan to be wearing shorts and hitting the road on my bike. When I rode yesterday, I managed 8 miles. My goal for tomorrow will be 9.

Hope all this info helps someone out there.

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