Excess Weight And Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Defined in many medical journals and documents, sleep apnea (or apnoea) is always defined as a sleep disorder (somnipathy) and more precisely a sleep disorder in which pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep occur more often than normal (as defined by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute).
If untreated, this condition is considered dangerous for human health, as it can cause or worsen the existing medical problems (various types of cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, stroke) and can even have lethal consequences (heart failure).
Depending on what is causing it, there are 3 main types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – is the most common type which occurs in the case when there is a physically blocked upper airway, which further causes the blocking of the airflow;
Central sleep apnea (CSA) – is a neural issue and occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing, which cause the breathing process to stop;
Complex sleep apnea - is a combination of the two previously mentioned types and happens when someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Complex sleep apnea is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea(TESCA).
In simple words, we could say that obstructive sleep apnea is a type of snoring in which there is a longer pause in the process of breathing, more precisely, inhaling the air. Air inflow is obstructed, partially or fully, by throat muscles and tissue which are blocking the upper airway.
The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea (in adults) is excess weight.
According to WebMD info, more than half of people with obstructive sleep apnea are either overweight or obese and even a 10% weight gain raises your risk of OSA by six times, though the effect goes down after age 60.
Excess weight creates pharyngeal fat (fat deposits in the neck) which by gravity and pressure further influence relaxed throat muscles, and increase a blockage of the upper airway during sleep.
Besides the direct effect on the neck and throat, increased abdominal fat compress a person’s chest, pressuring lungs and thus reducing lung capacity, causing “shallow” breathing, which further decreases airflow pressure, making the upper airway more likely to collapse.