There are so many side-effects that occur as a result of obesity, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, acid reflex, and even cancer and infertility. And, of course, there is the fallout in day-to-day life – the lack of mobility and the activities that often have to be skipped because of the inability to move freely and/or the lack of energy that so often accompanies obesity. One other way that obesity affects daily life is its impact on sleep. Many people with obesity also suffer from sleep disorders including sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that can even be life-threatening.
Sleep apnea can affect people who are not obese – in fact, there are nearly 22 million people in the United States alone who suffer from this condition. But obesity is an identifying factor for many.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea due to obesity suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a common condition for those struggling with their weight. With increased weight comes an increased neck circumference. This can cause the muscles at the back of the throat to collapse which blocks airflow and causes shallow breathing or even pauses in breath. Each period can last at least 10 seconds and can happen multiple times during the night and even dozens of times over the course of one hour.
While it can be difficult to identify sleep apnea unless the sufferer has someone who notices it during the night, there are some symptoms that may signify its presence including:
- Dry or sore throat when waking in the morning.
- Fatigue, or in some cases sleeplessness.
- Depression or changes in mood.
- Chronic snoring.
A reduction in weight can reduce the circumference of the neck and lessen the pressure on the back of the throat, thus minimizing episodes of shallow breathing or apnea.
If left unchecked, however, sleep apnea can result in a host of conditions including low blood oxygen levels, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and even heart failure.