Maintaining a healthy weight is important to reduce the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea.
Excess fat, muscle and soft tissue, especially around the neck area, can squash your airway and the reduced muscle tone may not be sufficient to prevent it from narrowing.
This blockage can result in an apnoea, when the airflow is
blocked for 10 seconds or more.
A large neck size of 43 cm (size 17 inch collar) for men and 41cm (16inch ) for women and a BMI (Body Mass Index) of over 25, can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnoea, so every effort should be taken to reduce this as far as possible.
An ideal BMI would be between 18.5-24.9
Body Mass Index
below 18.5 underweight
between 18.5 and 24.9 healthy weight range
between 25 and 29.9 overweight
between 30 and 39.9 obese
above 40 severely obese
Simply losing excess weight can drastically reduce or even stop snoring and OSA
Weight loss advice
Sleep-specific weight loss advice
How exercise can improve airway muscle tone
Why sleep, exercise and weight management are interlinked
Weight loss advice
Expert dietary advice should be given by a trained nutrition professional, but general advice to decrease calorie intake and increase energy output may help to promote weight loss.
More specific sleep-related weight loss advice includes avoiding eating late in the evening or during the night.
The hormone, Leptin, that gives you a feeling of fullness/satiety and suppresses your appetite, is lower when sleep deprived.
In addition, the hormone, ghrelin, that controls your appetite, is raised, making you feel more hungry during the night.
Therefore, you have a greater desire to eat and need more food to make you “feel full”. This contributes to weight gain.
Sleep deprivation, fatigue and weight management
Sleep deprivation and fatigue cause the patient to alter their food choices. High carbohydrate and high sugar foods are more appealing to boost blood sugar levels, which further compounds the problem.
Shift workers may find this particularly difficult, as the food available at night from vending machines etc is usually the worst type of food to support weight loss.
If at all possible, advise removing this type of food from temptation and, if it’s absolutely necessary to eat, have low carbohydrate food to reduce weight gain.
The body is slower at metabolising blood sugar at night, increasing the risk of diabetes. Diabetes, therefore frequently co-exists with OSA. Advise a blood glucose check to detect for diabetes.
Encourage a “fasting” or food abstinence episode of a minimum of 10-12 hours. e.g. Evening meal at 7.30pm, no further food until 07.30 am.
It is not just the calorie intake but the timing of eating, that affects weight management. This is known as time restricted eating.
Consistency of mealtime is also key here. Having meals at the same time every day helps the circadian clock ( body clock) to keep metabolism steady. A disrupted body clock causes a disruption in metabolism.
Weight gain and OSA in children:
Children who are overweight or obese and snore should be investigated for OSA. Symptoms of sleep deprivation in children are very similar to that of ADHD.
Hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor concentration, with additional snoring or enlarged tonsils are all symptoms of OSA , worthy of further investigation.
Weight loss helps to reduce OSA in children in the same way it does in adults.
Alcohol and medication:
Alcohol and sedative medication causes a reduction in the tone of the muscles that keep the airway open.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime, therefore, can result in the collapse of these muscles and increases the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnoea.
Alcohol also decreases your drive to breathe. A greater reduction in oxygen is required to stimulate a breath, making breathing even more laboured if intoxicated. If severe, this could be fatal.
Alcohol also causes a disruption in the sleep pattern. Whilst getting to sleep, it sedates you and then during the night, causes fragmented sleep, leading to worsening daytime fatigue.
It takes one unit per hour for the liver to process and eliminate alcohol.
This formula can be useful to work out when to stop drinking prior to bedtime. Late evening drinking is particularly problematic. Alcohol consumed at lunchtime is therefore preferable, but not always practical!
Recommended associated tests/symptoms that should cause further
questions to be asked:
- Blood pressure- hypertension is common in those with OSA symptoms
- Blood sugar test- Diabetes is commonly associated with OSA
- Low mood- OSA can be mistaken for depression as to the effects of daytime fatigue
- Poor concentration and difficulty with word finding etc.
- Headaches – a morning headache is a common symptom of OSA
- Dry mouth – again a common symptom of OSA
- Urine test- Frequent visits to the bathroom to pass urine are a symptom of OSA
- Insomnia- Frequently mistaken for OSA- some people report repeated awakenings. These may be caused by low oxygen saturation that the individual is unaware of