A few months ago, I went in for a routine doctor's visit. I mentioned that my wife said I sometimes stop breathing in my sleep. He suggested that I do a sleep study. I did the study a few weeks ago. Today, I went to the neurologist so that she could tell me about the findings. I stopped breathing for more than 10 seconds 82 times per hour and I had virtually no REM sleep. This is a condition called sleep apnea. The neurologist suggested that my sleep apnea might be a contributing factor to my weight problem. She says that the body only releases certain hormones during REM sleep. The lack of some of these hormones she says could cause weight gain.
After a quick search on the Internet, I've learned the following:
- Obesity is a major factor in sleep apnea. But, while significant weight loss may improve obstructive sleep apnea, it usually won't eliminate it completely. It is more likely that sleep apnea contributes to obesity which then makes the sleeping disorder worse.
- Sleep deprivation results in lower activity levels.
- Low energy causes cravings for high energy foods.
- Sleep deprivation causes lower levels of the hormone leptin which suppresses appetite. It also causes higher levels of grehlin which causes cravings for more food intake.
See these articles:
About.com article: a recent study from Turkey now indicates that people suffering from sleep apnea have a higher level of leptin than is considered normal. This may cause an inability to
control appetite and weight.
And to think, all along, I had thought I simply wasn't a morning person. I had no idea that the quality of my sleep was so bad. Nor did I associate poor sleep with weight gain. But, it makes sense. When I feel low on energy during the day, that is when I reach for an energy boosting high-carb snack! And, since I feel somewhat tired all of the time, my metabolism is likely much slower than other people's. I can't say that sleep apnea is absolutely what made me fat, but I can now see that it was a contributing factor.
So what can be done about it? Treatment of sleep apnea usually involves the following:
- Medications to stimulate the respiratory center of the brain to keep you breathing while asleep.
- Masks (CPAP) that force your airway to stay open, thereby allowing you to breath.
- Mandible (jaw) positioning devices that help reposition the tongue to help prevent the airway obstruction.
- Surgery to relieve any obstructions. My doctor says that 9 out of 10 patients she has seen who tried surgery still had symptoms afterwards.
- Weight reduction (over 95% of individuals suffering from sleep apnea are obese). Weight may contribute but likely is not the root cause.
I'm opting for #2 (CPAP mask) & #5 (weight loss). Not only am I going to sleep my way thin, but I'm also going back on low-carb after Thanksgiving.