Have you recently been told you snore loudly? Do you feel lately like you wake up every morning still feeling tired? Have you put on more than a few pounds over the last several months, but you can’t figure out why? Do you want to exercise but can’t seem to find the energy to do it? If this sounds like you, then you may have sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disruption of airflow into the lungs lasting longer than ten seconds. This means you stop breathing. Ten seconds of not breathing won’t kill you, but for sufferers of sleep apnea, this stopping and starting of breathing usually occur several times during the night. The outcome of experiencing this continuously disruptive sleep pattern is constant fatigue and falling asleep at inappropriate times during the day. Sufferers may also experience loud snoring, morning headaches, difficulty paying attention, memory loss, and weight gain.

large man sleeping hard in bed, snoring, with his arm over his head

How is Weight Gain Related to Sleep Apnea?

Weight gain can be both a cause and a result of sleep apnea. Let’s start by looking at how it can cause it. Sleep apnea is often the result of the soft tissues around the throat relaxing and partially blocking the airway as you sleep. This increases if you lie on your back because gravity helps to pull that soft tissue down even more. Weight gain makes the neck heavier and thicker. This increases the risk of soft tissue collapsing and blocking the airway. Have you ever noticed that you snore more when you gain a few pounds?

Studies show that weight gain can also be a result of sleep apnea. This isn’t surprising purely from a common-sense standpoint. Less sleep makes you feel tired and lacking in energy, so you are much less likely to exercise. Scientifically, studies have also shown that sleep apnea seems to suppress the hormones that help control your body’s appetite. Sleep apnea sufferers might crave not only more food but also unhealthier foods because of this.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Weight Gain?

Yes! Although it’s known that excess weight can play a role in one’s risk for sleep apnea, the role is actually reciprocal. When someone suffers from sleep apnea, their sleep deprivation can lower their levels of leptin which is an appetite-suppressing hormone. It also increases ghrelin which is an appetite-stimulating hormone. The combination of these two can increase your cravings for foods high in calories and lead to overeating. Sleep apnea can also affect insulin levels. Insulin resistance can cause your body to store everything you consume as fat, especially in the middle section. It can also result in type 2 diabetes. The combination of these different factors can all lead to sleep apnea weight gain.

In addition to affecting your hormones, sleep apnea can impact your energy levels. Since you’re not sleeping restfully at night, you will feel more tired during the day. Your energy levels won’t help motivate you to exercise or partake in any physical activity. The lack of physical activity combined with hormonal changes that cause you to overeat will inevitably lead to weight gain.

Excess Tongue Fat Can Cause Sleep Apnea

There’s no telling where your body will accumulate fat when you gain weight. Everybody is different. One of the surprising areas you can gain weight is your tongue. If your tongue has excess fat, it might be too large for your mouth which can obstruct your airway while you sleep. An obstructed airway can then cause sleep apnea. The only way to lose tongue fat is by losing weight overall.

What To Do About Weight Gain and Sleep Apnea

Whether you’re overweight and it plays a role in your sleep apnea, or your sleep apnea condition caused you to gain weight, there are options to help you lose weight and take control of your health. First, we recommend getting diagnosed with your sleep condition. Once you receive your diagnosis, Dr. Nehawandian will prescribe the best sleep apnea treatment for you.

After using your treatment consistently, you will start to notice an increase in energy and likely a decrease in appetite and cravings. This will help you eat less and eat more nutritious foods which will give you the energy you need to exercise and incorporate more movement into your daily routine. Over time, the extra weight will come off and your condition will improve dramatically.

What Can You Do If You Think Your Weight Gain is Related to Sleep Apnea?

If what you read seems to describe your experiences, then call a sleep disorder dentist and schedule a sleep study. The exam is painless, and sleep apnea treatments are often very successful. Imagine finally sleeping well, gaining more energy, and maybe even shedding a few pounds. Contact our Los Gatos sleep dentist to schedule an appointment. Give us a call at (408) 354-5600 today. We look forward to helping you get a better night of sleep and improving your overall health and quality of life.