There’s the $64,000 question. You know, does using a CPAP make you gain weight? It’s a common question and there is a connection between sleep apnea and extra weight, but it may not be exactly the connection you are expecting to find out about here. Before we dig into this topic, let’s get one fact out in the open right away. Obesity greatly increases the probability of someone developing sleep apnea. We’ll explain that a bit more as we uncover other issues that make the weight gain and sleep apnea argument a bit easier to understand.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Chronic Fatigue
Weight gain is not directly caused by sleep apnea. However, it can indirectly be connected to it. Here’s how that works. Sleep apnea can lead to chronic fatigue where you will be drowsy during the day. When you are tired and less motivated due to a lack of sleep, you are less likely to exercise or watch what you eat. Your metabolic rate may take a bit of a dive, which means your body has chosen to slow down how it burns the energy it gets from the foods you eat.
When this happens, you may develop something called metabolic syndrome. Once metabolic syndrome takes hold, it puts you at a greater risk of all kinds of bad health issues ranging from stroke and heart disease to type 2 diabetes. As your body retains more weight, the worse the health conditions become.
Sleep Apnea and Hunger
When looking at the connection between weight gain and sleep apnea, we have to include the factors of hunger and hormones. In simple terms, when we have poor sleeping habits, we tend to overeat. This is a result of hormone levels in our body shifting. The key hormones in this situation are the ones that trigger the brain with the message that we are either hungry or full.
When you have poor sleep quality, your body tries to fight this by producing more of the hormone that tells your brain you are hungry. It does this to fight off the low energy levels it detects from a lack of sleep. Then you start eating. However, the normal levels of the hormone that tells you to stop eating won’t be enough to get that message across to your brain so you end up overeating.
Cravings For Bad Food
As we just explained, when your body is dealing with sleep deprivation, it will signal the brain that hunger will fight off low energy levels. When this happens, we typically don’t reach for nutritional food. Instead, something in our brain (blame it on the hormones) will make us lean towards foods that are rich in carbohydrates and fat. In other words, foods that are generally bad for us, we will eat in large quantities.
Do you see where this may go? The increase in eating fatty foods, sugar, and carbs creates the perfect recipe for weight gain. But that’s not all. The bonuses that come from all of that new, extra weight, will contribute to your health including such disorders as hypertension, breathing problems, and many other hidden issues that will impact your health in a bad way.
Can Weight Gain Cause Sleep Apnea
That is a fair question considering the connection between sleep deprivation and how the body reacts to it. Weight gain is most certainly a risk factor associated with the development of sleep apnea. Here’s how that happens. Pharyngeal fat is to blame. Pharyngeal fat is the soft tissue that is located around your pharynx.
This is the back of your throat we are talking about. When your body contains excess fat in the pharynx, neck, and chest, when you lie down, that tissue will displace. As you fall asleep, your muscles will relax and the added weight of the fatty tissue in these areas will collapse. Often this results in an airway blockage. Anytime the airway narrows, you are at risk of developing sleep apnea.
The Other Side of The Coin
Well, we have pretty much explained how weight gain can contribute to the development of sleep apnea. But what about weight loss? Can that possibly be a cure for obstructive sleep apnea? Let’s pause for a moment and consider this. If weight gain can be a contributing factor in the development of sleep disorders, it only makes sense that the opposite would also be true. It would most certainly make the question does using a CPAP make you gain weight seem to be a question that would never need to be brought up ever again.
However, losing weight does not appear to have the opposite effect on sleeping habits as gaining weight does. Oh, there are plenty of benefits that come from losing weight which will specifically curb those cravings, balance your hormones, and reduce the risk of chronic fatigue. That’s not even scratching the surface of the health benefits of losing weight. But where does this apply to sleep apnea?
According to Registered Nurse Michelle Worley, who is also the Director of Clinical at Aeroflot Sleep, sleep apnea has no cure. However, it can be treated. “Lifestyle management like diet and exercise can help if you are overweight,” she states. So, if you have a CPAP machine that you use for sleep apnea therapy, and you happen to have a few extra pounds on you, you can rest assured that the weight gain has nothing to do with your CPAP use. But, what is likely happening is that your sleep apnea has caused you to suffer from symptoms that may have resulted in you eating a few more unhealthy snacks than you would normally enjoy. But there are ways to beat this cycle and get a handle on the situation to better treat your sleep disorder. Here is how you do that.
Pay Attention To Your BMI
Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is a valuable measuring device. With it, you can determine how much weight you need to lose to improve your health. Sure, you could skip the BMI and just hop on a scale, but bodyweight figures don’t factor in body fat content. A BMI reading is far more accurate in assessing how much body fat is being carried on your body.
Plus, there is no way you will be able to identify how many extra fatty deposits are in your throat. A BMI reading of between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight while readings of 30 and above are considered obese. A safe, healthy target range is a BMI of between 18.5 and 25.
Start To Exercise
Exercise is really just moving around. It doesn’t have to be intense and can start with just walking down the street or around the block. Think of it as moderate physical activity and by incorporating 15 to 30-minutes of this daily, you will increase your metabolism which will ramp up the burning of fat within your body.
Try to add more time to your activity as you become accustomed to the extra work you are putting your body through. As you gain strength, increase the intensity of the activity as well. Examples would be moving from walking to jogging or adding a sport of some kind to your weekly routine.
See Your Doctor
AIt is always important to keep your doctor in the loop. You should begin by explaining to your family medical professional why you are looking at getting more active and your doctor may have additional suggestions for you to follow that will help you to improve your lifestyle through weight loss.
It should go without saying that if you are a smoker, you should stop smoking. If you are a drinker, you should reduce your alcohol consumption, and if you overeat, you should change your diet to more nutritious foods that will also leave you feeling full and satisfied without the high-calorie count.
So, Does Using A CPAP Make You Gain Weight?
The short answer is not directly. However, there are several indirect things related to your sleep disorder that may be contributing to weight gain. Considering there is no cure for sleep apnea, only treatment, it is wise to take whatever steps necessary to reduce the potential of ongoing sleep disorder development. That means losing weight.
The benefits to losing weight are many but we can’t forget to point out that the better you feel, the longer you will live. Sleep deprivation wears the body down to where there is little energy and this can do far more harm than good.
Now that you’ve gotten down to this part of the article, you will have a better knowledge base on weight and sleep apnea. Does using a CPAP make you gain weight? Not exactly. Nor does losing weight cure sleep apnea. If anything, losing a few extra pounds will do good things for you and help you to sleep better.
Be sure to consult your doctor before you embark on any kind of moderate physical activity and remember, the more active you become, the better your health will become. Along with that will be better sleeping habits. Exercise and diet won’t eliminate your sleep apnea, but they will most certainly make it a lot easier to manage. Good luck!