Sleep Apnea and Obesity
By Kevin Tymitz, MD
TriHealth Weight Management
Obesity is not a condition that results simply from eating too much and not exercising. It's a disease that is brought about through a very complex cascade of inflammatory hormones. These hormones have negative effects on every organ system in the body, leading to all the associated conditions that often go hand and hand with obesity, including diabetes, hypertension, depression and many more.
One such condition that patients with obesity often experience is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when people stop breathing for short periods of time while they are asleep. They usually do not wake up completely when this happens, often leaving them feeling exhausted in the morning and throughout the day. Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud, irregular snoring, then quiet periods of at least 10 seconds when breathing stops. These episodes can happen up to 100 times each hour.
- Daytime sleepiness and always feeling tired.
- Morning headaches, sore throat, dry mouth, or cough.
- Feeling depressed, moody, or irritable.
- Not being able to concentrate or remember things.
- Possible impotence or high blood pressure.
While there are many causes of sleep apnea, obesity is one of the leading causes. More than 60 percent of patients with obesity disease suffer from sleep apnea. The common misconception is that sleep apnea is caused simply by impingement on the airway secondary to a “thick” neck in the obese patient. In fact, inflammatory hormones elicited by central obesity have dramatic effects on the central nervous system. This leads to depression of ventilation, sleep fragmentation and daytime sleepiness.
Multiple studies have demonstrated the benefits of bariatric surgery on sleep apnea. Along with weight loss, surgery can interfere with the inflammatory hormone cascade and the damaging effects on the human body, including sleep apnea. Most bariatric surgery patients who suffer from sleep apnea not only see a decrease in sleep apnea but are also is able to stop CPAP machine support, one of the leading treatment options. This not only helps patients feel better and improve their overall health but can ultimately save them a lot of hassle, discomfort at night and money.
If you are concerned about obesity and you experience the symptoms of sleep apnea, I encourage you to speak with your doctor about your options or make an appointment with one of the experts at TriHealth Weight Management.