The relationship between your body weight and sleep disorders like sleep apnea is a complicated one: the most apt way to describe it is to say it’s a vicious cycle. Being overweight is a key risk factor for sleep disorders like sleep apnea, because the fatty tissues in a thicker neck tend to collapse on the airway during sleeping, causing loud, consistent snoring and breathing pauses. A Study that was published by researchers at the University of Helsinki in the International Journal of Obesity found a strong correlation between being overweight and sleep disorders after studying a sample of 5,700 middle-aged women. This is just one example of the increasing volume of literature on the relationship between sleep apnea and weight gain, which, as it turns out, is anything but a one-way street.
Being Overweight Can Cause Sleep Apnea, and Sleep Apnea Can Lead to Weight GainSleep apnea causes a suite of daytime symptoms that can make it exceptionally difficult for patients to maintain a healthy weight. Fatigue and lethargy, and therefore the unwillingness to exercise, resulting from poor sleep is just one part of the picture. We also tend to eat more when we struggle with low energy levels and depressive moods, but perhaps most interesting of all: a lack of a good night’s rest actually goes so far as effecting our hormones.
Sleep Deprivation and Hormonal BalanceThere are three hormones that come into play when we are sleep deprived:
- Leptin, according to Recent Research, is the hormone that instructs us to stop eating. It’s the hormone responsible for telling our brains that we’re full and don’t need to eat anymore. When you haven’t had enough sleep, our bodies produce less leptin, which causes us to eat more.
- Ghrelin is the hormone that makes us feel hungry and compels us to eat. When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies produce more of this hormone, which in conjunction with less leptin causes us to eat far more than we would if we were getting a good night’s rest.
- Insulin is also affected by insufficient sleep. When we are sleep deprived, our body’s cells tend to become insulin resistant, which blocks the delivery of energy-giving glucose. In some cases, this can be severe enough to cause diabetes! Additionally, insulin encourages the release of that “stop eating” hormone leptin, so when our bodies reject insulin the production of this hormone decreases, causing us to eat more.