When it comes to assessing the relationship between sleep apnea and obesity, a “chicken and egg” scenario often arises. Did the apnea cause the weight gain, or did the weight gain cause the apnea? The answer isn’t a linear cause-and-effect correlation–it’s a cycle.

On the one hand, obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea. A BMI over 30 increases the risk for developing sleep apnea, largely due to the pressure put on the airway by excess fat and tissue. And it is understood that losing weight often improves sleep apnea symptoms–in some cases, it cures it completely. On the other hand, sleep apnea can cause weight gain. When we are sleep deprived, our blood sugar levels become more unstable and our judgement suffers. We find ourselves reaching for energy drinks, extra caffeine, and lots of sugary, starchy carbs to provide a quick jolt of energy for our exhausted bodies. We are too tired to exercise or get outside for fresh air. We are too tired to prepare healthy meals with fresh foods. We just want to feel better as soon as possible, so high-sugar, high-fat, and very convenient food (often from a vending machine or drive-through) wins out. As a result, we pack on the pounds. This, of course, makes the sleep apnea even worse than it was to begin with, and therein lies the real problem. The cycle between sleep apnea and weight gain worsens as time goes on, and the longer it continues, the harder it is to get out. Not only that, but the risk of obesity-associated illnesses increases, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Photo Credits: Coastal Sleep

The silver lining here is that treating sleep apnea is the first step to escaping the cycle. When you treat sleep apnea, your sleep improves. You have more energy, more desire to eat properly and exercise. You make better choices, and your body responds. As you begin to lose weight, it improves the apnea further, which gives you even more energy and more desire to make the best choices for your health and wellness. Just as ignored sleep apnea worsens the cycle, treating it causes a positive cycle of change to begin.

Escape the the sleep apnea / weight gain spiral and get onboard with a treatment plan that works for you. If you’ve tried CPAP and were unable to stay compliant, you have options! Click here to find a provider near you! Don’t wait–start feeling better today!