Thursday, April 10, 2014

Obesity and Sleep Apnea

There has been an increased awareness amongst health care providers and the public in recent years concerning sleep apnea and obesity.

The obesity rate has risen steadily since the 70's. Back in the 70's the obesity rate was significantly lower than it is today. It  has gradually increased to it's present and alarming rate. The charts below demonstrate this trend.

These are the obesity rates in 2010. No distinction made between children, adolescents and adults.

Both sleep apnea and obesity have spiraled out of control and continue to do so.

Even though sleep apnea and obesity are two completely separate issues, they both exacerbate the other condition.

How obesity contributes to sleep apnea:

We know that there are many conditions that contribute to the severity of sleep apnea. Let's talk about how obesity exacerbates sleep apnea.

It's really quite simple. The more obese a person becomes, the larger their necks get. The problem with this is that the airway becomes severely restricted and therefore makes it difficult to breathe. As we all know, breathing is vital in maintaining life.

For a better understanding of sleep apnea, please refer to my previous blogs regarding this topic.

How sleep apnea contributes to obesity:

As I mentioned in previous blogs, hormones and other biochemical are regulated during sleep. In particular, during REM sleep. 

Two of these hormones are leptin and ghrelin. These two hormones are responsible for appetite and weight regulation. When these two hormones are not properly regulated, we tend to eat too much because our bodies are tricked into believing that we are hungry when we shouldn't be. This is one way sleep apnea contributes to obesity.

Another way sleep apnea contributes to obesity is from low energy levels. When we don't get adequate sleep and proper oxygenation, we tend to feel exhausted throughout the day. This makes losing weight much more difficult because we can't find the energy to be active or to work out.

Latest developments:

In the past, physicians and other healthcare providers suggested weight loss to their patients. We were concerned with people's feelings and didn't want to offend them by telling our patients they were fat and needed to do something about it. We now know that we need to address obesity much more aggressively. Obesity is a disease. We need to treat it as a disease process. Both sleep apnea and obesity significantly reduce life expectancy.

Michelle Obama has even chimed in on the subject with the "Let's Move" campaign. There are other public awareness campaigns to get the information out. Hopefully we can reverse this alarming trend in obesity rates.

If you are obese and/or suffer from sleep apnea, visit your healthcare provider to discuss the appropriate methods to address your concerns. It could save your life!

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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