Patients who are overweight or obese carry a high risk of developing many serious health conditions, one of which is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts your breathing overnight, causing you to wake up repeatedly and preventing you from getting the full night’s rest you need to function healthily.
Excess weight makes it harder to breathe while you sleep, significantly increasing your risk of sleep apnea. At the same time, sleep apnea often causes weight gain, exacerbating your existing symptoms.
Explore our informative guide to learn more about the relationship between sleep apnea and your weight.
In most cases, the first treatment prescribed for sleep apnea is a CPAP mask. Though these are effective when used properly, most patients stop wearing them early on in the treatment process. This is because the mask is bulky and uncomfortable, while the machine attached to it is loud and difficult to travel with.
When patients stop wearing a CPAP mask or don’t wear it enough, their sleep apnea symptoms will continue to progress without any interference, often causing them to gain weight as a result. According to a 2015 study that examined 3,000 sleep apnea patients, CPAP users experienced an increase in BMI (body-mass index).
Losing weight is one of the most effective ways to relieve sleep apnea symptoms. It also reduces your risk of connected complications including high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. That’s why The American College of Physicians recommends weight loss as the first option for treating sleep apnea.
In an eye-opening study, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute observed male sleep apnea patients who restricted their diet for nine weeks. The results showed a 58% improvement in sleep apnea symptoms during that period.
It’s well-known that exercise is important and offers a wide variety of health benefits. Unfortunately, the truth is that most of us don’t really enjoy working out and often find excuses not to do it. Exercise can be tedious, uncomfortable, and exhausting, all of which is even more true if you’re overweight -- but if you want better sleep, exercise could be your ticket to a peaceful night’s rest.
Many people incorrectly assume that you have to go all out and push your body to its limits if you want to lose weight. In reality, this will likely only result in serious discomfort or injury, discouraging you from exercising further and causing you to give up.
Instead, try to think of aerobic activities you enjoy. Do you like playing sports? How about yoga or dancing? Even just taking a walk can do wonders for your health. If you love the beach, try walking on or near the beach to help motivate you. By choosing an activity you like, you’re far more likely to actually keep up with your routine and achieve the results you expect.
If you’re struggling to find time to exercise, consider reducing the amount of TV you watch or spending less time on your phone. All it takes is one hour of aerobic activity four days per week to help you lose weight and sleep soundly through the night.
Exercise isn’t the only important part of managing your weight -- maintaining a healthy diet is crucial as well. Though many patients are reluctant about the concept of dieting, it’s possible to make healthy choices without giving up your favorite foods. In fact, strict diets are too difficult to maintain for most people, causing them to give up and regain the weight they initially lost.
That’s why Dr. Goel advises a more moderate approach, such as a Mediterranean diet. This diet gives you a healthy balance of different food groups without forcing you to make extreme choices such as giving up meat or dairy. You can still enjoy a cheeseburger or a bowl of ice cream -- just don’t have them all the time and make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
By following a Mediterranean diet, you can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other serious health conditions. As long as you set realistic goals and hold yourself accountable, there are no limits to what you can achieve with exercise and a healthy diet.
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