Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sleeping my way thin...

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Sleep deprivation results in lower activity levels.
  3. Low energy causes cravings for high energy foods.
  4. 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:

Article: Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated
Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index
) 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:

  1. Medications to stimulate the respiratory center of the brain to keep you breathing while asleep.
  2. Masks (CPAP) that force your airway to stay open, thereby allowing you to breath.
  3. Mandible (jaw) positioning devices that help reposition the tongue to help prevent the airway obstruction.
  4. Surgery to relieve any obstructions. My doctor says that 9 out of 10 patients she has seen who tried surgery still had symptoms afterwards.
  5. 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.


Vikki said...

I lost 30lbs in a matter of weeks when I first got my bi-pap, my settings are too high for a c-pap. In fact mine is at the highest setting.

I can't even describe to you how much better I felt after I got it either. I had suffered from apnea all my life and hadn't known it.

While for me, it didn't take care of the weight issues, it did give me my life back. I was to the point of falling asleep at work, or anywhere for that matter. It also gave me the energy to implement my low carb plan which is slowly taking the weight off.

I wish you the very best and a good nights sleep.

Anonymous said...

Good for you D. So many people will not admit that they need to treat OSA. You will feel so much better that you will not mind the treatment.


Rachel said...

my mother has the same issue! she just went through the sleep study and is getting her mask/breathing machine. it has radically improved her mood and energy levels! i don't know if it's helped her in weight issues though since she's not whole-heartedly pursuing the low-carb diet she's supposed to be doing. i think you will do well with the two options you chose! good luck!

Daron said...

Don't get me wrong. I don't really think that using the CPAP machine alone will make me thin again. But, I don think that sleep apnea may have been a factor in my gaining weight in the first place!

AFSister said...

Big Daddy-
I made your low carb pecan pie recipe for Thanksgiving last year for my fiance and his family- they're all diabetic. It was a hit! This year I want to make it with Sweetzfree. How do I convert the 1 cup of Splenda granular to the Sweetzfree drops, and still maintain the substance of the pie filling? You can email me if you'd rather, at Thanks so much!

Sherrie said...

I was diagnosed with an enlarged thyroid in late 2003 and then in mid July I fell pregnant. By the time I made 3 months I had really bad sleep apnea and for the first time that I know of I snored badly, I had next to no sleep for the following 6 months of my pregnancy and I gained close to 30kgs which is an awful lot of weight, 1kg is over 2 pounds!!!

It was obviously due to my thyroid enlarging more to keep up with the pregnancy but whenever I'd mention my sleep apnea to my doctor she would just say that it was because I am eating too much!

(I ate the same as before when I was maintaining my weight loss)

So how are you going now?