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Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain - Which Comes First?

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Sleep Apnea, Fat and Weight Gain

Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain.

One of the great chicken and egg scenarios that has had the medical profession flummoxed for years with the debate about sleep apnea and fat.

For those of you who do not know about sleep apnea, it is a condition that affects a fairly large percentage of people. The net result is a non-restful sleep cycle; no matter how long you have your eyes closed and are apparently sleeping, you are not getting proper rest. This is because a person with sleep apnea has a problem with breathing properly when sleeping. The net result is that they stop breathing many times while asleep, and even though they seem to be asleep, their body is constantly waking up and gasping for air. A person with apnea is never able to get to the REM level of sleep, which is the most restorative phase of your sleep cycle.

There are a couple of main issues that cause sleep apnea. This article is not intended to explore sleep apnea, but rather to explore the effect of sleep apnea on weight gain. Suffice it to say, that if you do not dream at night, or if you find yourself waking up at night gasping for air, you should read up on sleep apnea and have yourself tested. It will save your life. It is a silent killer because most people do not die directly from sleep apnea; they die from the side effects of sleep apnea; so sleep apnea caused deaths is severely under reported. Falling asleep behind the wheel of a car and heart attacks are the usual forms of death for undiagnosed sleep apnea victims.

For years, doctors believed that being fat caused sleep apnea. When presented with a patient diagnosed with sleep apnea, their first advise was -- go on a diet and lose weight and your apnea problems will go away.
Most medical practitioners now understand that sleep apnea causes weight gain, and the subsequent weight gain aggravates sleep apnea.

Why does Apnea cause weight gain? Someone with sleep apnea is always tired. You can usually see it in their faces. To stay awake, they usually turn to copious amounts of caffeine. It is nothing for a person with sleep apnea to drink 10 or 12 cups of coffee a day and a few colas as well. When you are tired, and are forced to stay awake in this manner, your body will often try to get energy any way that it can. If it cannot get the sleep it craves, then it turns to food. People with sleep apnea often feel hungry and eat snacks all the time. Coupled with the fact that they lack the energy to exercise, and the fact that they do not get deep sleep (where a fair amount of weight loss occurs), then weight gain is inevitable. As people get heavier, they start to develop more fat in their neck area, which in turn makes the apnea worse. It is incredibly hard to lose weight when you have sleep apnea.

So how do you solve your sleep apnea induced weight gain? The first thing you have to do is treat the sleep apnea. Trying to diet will be discouraging because it will likely end up in failure. Even on the same food intake, someone with sleep apnea will lose weight much more slowly than an otherwise identical person. Go to your doctor and get your sleep apnea confirmed. If you have it, then likely you will be told to use a special mask that you wear at night that is connected to an air pump (CPAP) that is designed to keep your airway open while you sleep. This will improve your sleep patterns tremendously. It is still not quite the same as a normal sleep pattern, but is close enough that you are able to go about your daily life in a normal manner.

About 20% of sleep apnea sufferers may be able to have their symptoms reduced or eliminated with surgery, but for most people, the compressor is currently the only option. So here are the steps to success in treating apnea related weight gain:
a) Start the sleep apnea treatment. Whether it is surgery or the CPAP mask.
b) After a week or so, work to kick your caffeine habit (likely you are addicted)
c) Start exercising regularly (besides being necessary for weight loss, this will also help improve your sleep patterns)
d) After a few weeks, start to reduce your food intake as part of a controlled diet. Do not expect to be able to just do it all on day one. Your body can only take so much change at once, and needs time to adjust to each new change. Stay away from any form of crash diet programs.

You will have to reduce your eating and snacking, but just be aware of it, and make sure you eat the amounts recommended for someone about 20% less than your current weight. Just gradually change your food intake levels in this manner, and likely the weight will come off gradually on it's own until you reach your goal weight.

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