Does Sleep Apnea Cause Weight Gain? Here’s What You Need to Know

understanding sleep apnea and weight gain

Getting an adequate amount of sleep regularly is important for a healthy mind and body. Not only does sleep make you feel fresh and well-rested, it also allows your body to repair itself and recover from a tiring day. For most people, eight hours of sleep every night is needed. But in today’s hectic world, this can be difficult to achieve. Not to mention there are other factors and disorders that can keep anyone from getting a good night’s sleep, such as sleep apnea.

People who suffer from sleep apnea aren’t only prone to fatigue and morning headaches, they are also prone to weight gain. This is also the reason why sleep apnea and weight gain are associated with each other. But how are they related?

Understanding Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which people experience disrupted breathing patterns in their sleep. In the most common type of sleep apnea (Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA), the disrupted breathing happens when the upper airway becomes blocked. People who suffer from OSA experience at least thirty breathing disruptions every night.

As experts learn more about sleep apnea, many found a connection to excess body weight, along with other health risks. Subsequently, insufficient sleep also leads to weight gain, making it a cycle of unhealthy cause and effect.

How One Affects the Other

It is important to note that not everyone who is overweight or obese will have sleep apnea. Being overweight, however, increases your risk for developing the sleep disorder.

This happens when the muscles around your neck can no longer support the excess weight of the tissues on top. The more weight that presses down the airway, the higher the chance it can collapse. Because of which, those who carry excess weight around their neck and chest area have significantly higher risk of developing OSA.

It is estimated that gaining 10% of your weight (that’s 15 lbs. for a person weighing 150 lbs.), can increase the risk of sleep apnea of up to six times.

weight gain affects sleep apnea

One Causes the Other, and Vice Versa

As said earlier, weight gain increases the risk of sleep apnea. Unfortunately, the reverse thing could happen to many people, as well. This is because the lack of oxygen during sleep can affect the body’s ability to function well and maintain a healthy weight. And there are plenty of reasons why this is the case.

Slow Metabolism

Metabolism is your body’s natural complex process to convert what you eat and drink into energy. Faster metabolism means more calorie-burning capacity. When you are constantly tired due to a stressful and less active lifestyle, your metabolism will slow down.

Over time, a reduction in metabolism leads to weight gain, as your body is unable to properly burn the calories from the drinks and food you consume. This could happen even without increasing your calorie intake.

Subsequently, not getting enough sleep slows down your metabolism, causing you to gain weight in the long run.

Excessive Fatigue Caused By Low Energy

Even a single night of poor sleep can cause you to feel like a zombie through the day. Just imagine what weeks, months, and even years of poor sleep can do to your body.

When you don’t regularly get enough sleep, your body will enter some sort of “battery-saver” mode, where it tries to conserve energy by performing only the essential tasks (eating, walking, etc.). This causes the body to drop its energy levels, making you feel constantly lethargic and fatigued. Most of the time, this causes people to consume unhealthy food out of convenience.

Hormonal Imbalances

Since your body is not getting enough quality sleep due to obstructive breathing, your body will try to fight against you. One example of this is hormonal imbalance caused by poor sleep, making weight loss extremely difficult, if not impossible.

When you’re constantly under stress and not getting quality sleep, your body’s natural hormone production will be disturbed, causing your body to produce less “leptin”. Leptin is responsible for regulating energy balance by inhibiting hunger. This sends signals to your brain that says “stomach is full” after eating. To make things worse, your body will produce more “ghrelin”, better known as the hunger hormone. This sends signals to your brain saying “still hungry”. This increases cravings and causes you to eat more.

treating sleep apnea and weight gain

Treating Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain

Many studies show that sleep apnea is improved by losing weight. The vicious cycle of sleep apnea and weight gain can work the opposite way, too.

Losing weight through lifestyle changes, healthy and balanced diet, and exercise can reduce sleep apnea. Subsequently, getting the right treatment for sleep apnea can improve sleep quality, making it easier for the mind and body to choose healthy lifestyle choices and effectively lose weight.

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Dr. Manish Shah tmj and sleep specialist

Dr. Manish Shah

  • BDS, MBBS, MMED (Sleep Medicine)
  • Masters in Sleep Medicine
  • General Medical Practitioner
  • General, Implant and Cosmetic Dentist
  • Certified in TMJ & Craniofacial Pain Management
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