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Sleep Apnea: A Weighty Issue

Mar 09, 2013



Sleep apnea is the condition for where there are pauses in breathing during sleep. These are defined by medical terminology when an individual literally stops breathing. There are two types of apneas Central and Obstructive. This is a common problem among the morbidly obese which requires them to wear an oxygen mask so they can breathe since that's due in part of their weight bearing down on their chest crushing their rib cage and lungs.

According to medical reports the population at risk are obese middle-aged males since physiology doesn't make women potential sufferers of sleep apnea. The problem is that people who do fall asleep due to sleep apnea will go through brief periods where people think they're not going to wake up. Keep in mind that this is very serious because if it's not properly diagnosed it can be life threatening. People with excessive weight usually morbidly obese constantly have to deal with frequent episodes of paused breathing. Snoring is a common problem with the morbidly obese and constant gasping for air while sleeping is another problem. Obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous to the heart because it's prolonging and deprivation of oxygen to keep the circulation flowing efficiently.

Other symptoms that are deemed non-specific are headaches, irritability, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, Noctoria (getting up in the middle of the night to urinate), increased urination, decreased sexual drive, increased heart rate, anxiety, depression, esophageal reflux (acid reflux disease), and profuse heavy sweating at night.

Sleep apnea has also been linked to congestive and congenital heart failure usually found in people who are diagnosed as morbidly obese because of the excessive weight on them. This is from severe and prolonged cases meaning the individual(s) were not being treated and had let the condition get to the point that it's no longer treatable.

Individuals born with Down's Syndrome are likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea since 50% of the population that has this genetic condition are likely to be diagnosed because of having an enlarged head, adenoids, tonsils, tongue, and narrowing of the nasopharnyx. Pharyngeal flap surgery has also been noted to cause sleep apnea in patients because of the obstruction in the breathing pattern after surgery which if not monitored can be life threatening. There are different treatments for people with sleep apnea and doctors and ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) specialists take the following into consideration for designing a treatment plan for those who are diagnosed with this condition.

The factors that are considered are an individual's medical history, severity of the disorder, and the specific cause for the obstruction. Some treatments also incorporate a lifestyle change, avoiding alcohol and medications that can relax the nervous system.

Other lifestyle changes is losing weight and quitting smoking, and incorporate things like elevating themselves while sleeping so that they can breathe using slanted pillows. The weight issue is the biggest lifestyle concern because that causes some people to be confined to beds where they can't move and be active contributing further into a person's weight gain.

Usually if someone who's morbidly obese and loses about 50 pounds within a couple months their condition improves, but it's usually up to a steady support system to get someone on a set routine and healthy eating plan that helps to get their weight down so they can qualify for other treatments to help them maintain weight loss which is either through gastric bypass which has to be strongly enforced since this surgery is irreversible and you have to eat differently and undergo a major lifestyle change. The other option is lap band, which is reversible, but again to maintain the weight loss to improve sleep and breathing patterns comes with monitoring what one eats and exercise to help improve breathing patterns.


  • overweightsleep issues