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Weight Gain Woes

Apr 22, 2021
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Spring is in the air, birds are chirping, and bathing suits are on the racks in clothing stores.  All of these signs and sounds lead to one very important question on a lot of people's minds:   Am I going to fit into my summer clothes?

Spring is in the air, birds are chirping, and bathing suits are on the racks in the clothing stores.  All of these signs and sounds lead to one very important question on a lot of people's minds:   Am I going to fit into my summer clothes??

For some people, maintaining a healthy weight is a lifetime battle.  Typically, people gain weight when they consume more calories than their bodies burn off, resulting in those calories being stored in their bodies as fat.  

Over time, the consistent act of taking in more calories than you consume will ultimately lead to obesity, which is associated with the leading causes of death in the United States and worldwide, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.

Incorporating healthy behaviors into your lifestyle, such as regular physical activity and healthy eating, should reduce excess weight gain.  Unfortunately, there are many factors that may be beyond your control that make losing weight a losing battle.  Inactivity or overconsumption of calories aside, there are other mitigating factors that can cause you to gain weight.  They can include:

  • Genetics – may determine the amount of fat you store and where that fat is distributed
  • Age – normal muscle loss, hormonal changes, and decreased metabolism
  • Behavior – learned habits that involve poor-quality dietary intake
  • Social and economic factors – lack of access to exercise activities, healthy cooking, or fresh foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Stress and anxiety - increased cortisol causes fat to build up in the mid-section of our bodies
  • Pregnancy
  • Microbiome – bacteria in your gut can affect how foods are digested

One of the most significant factors that can lead to obesity and reduced metabolism is lack of sleep. Many people underestimate the importance of getting enough healthy sleep. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a reduction in leptin and an elevation of ghrelin; two hormones that are important in regulating metabolism.  In addition, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and getting adequate sleep is crucial to allowing your body the time to recover and repair itself.

In an article titled “Sleep and Weight Gain”, written by Denise Mann and posted on Webmd.com, Michael Breus, Ph.D. explains, “It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly. …Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin…Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.”

According to the author Matthew Walker, Ph.D., in his New York Times bestseller “Why We Sleep”, routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night has a direct and adverse effect on your overall health.  Sleep disorders can play a particularly frustrating role and currently affect as many as 50 to 70 million U.S adults. The top five most prevalent sleep disorders are Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Insomnia, Restless Legs Syndrome, Narcolepsy, and REM Sleep Behavior.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Could be your Weight Gain Culprit

OSA is a dangerous condition that is characterized by episodes of complete or partial airway obstruction during sleep and can cause you to stop breathing up to hundreds of times per night. The pauses in breathing can cause both drastic changes in your oxygen levels and frequent arousals that fragment your sleep.

If you're not getting restful sleep because your airway is blocked and you have disordered breathing with obstructive sleep apnea, your body is fighting against you. The hormonal imbalance that results from poor sleep makes weight loss nearly impossible.

OSA can directly alter your glucose metabolism and promotes insulin resistance. The National Institutes of Health reports that about 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight and since sleep loss increases your risk of obesity there is a direct correlation.

In addition to the clinical consequences and poor sleep quality, OSA causes daytime sleepiness, which typically results in lower energy and less desire to be active.  Few people outside the sleep medicine community are aware that too little good sleep appears to be as much a factor in obesity as too much food and too little exercise.

While having sleep apnea can lead to weight gain, weight gain can also make sleep apnea symptoms worse. When people gain weight, they typically gain it everywhere, even in their necks. Excess weight in this area can narrow your airway and it can be even worse when you lie down. When the air has to squeeze through, it is often heard as snoring or wheezing. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your airway is blocked during sleep, so this excess narrowing can increase the number of times you wake up at night.

How does treating your sleep apnea become a solution to improving your overall health? 

When you have sleep apnea it can cause serious health issues. But if treated, the positive effects can be profound.  A good night’s sleep can generate many health benefits including:

  1. Strengthen your immune system
  2. Prevent excess weight gain
  3. Lower risk for serious health problems, like Type 2 Diabetes Stroke and Heart Disease
  4. Reduce stress and improved mood
  5. Improve cognitive ability and memory
  6. Better mental health and decreased depression
  7. Lower inflammation
  8. Increase sex drive

How Do You Get Started on Improving Your Overall Health?

If your goal is to lose weight, improve your overall health, and get your energy back, treating your sleep apnea is a solution and a process that does not require a great deal of effort or planning to get started.  

Your treatment path depends on your overall health and the severity of your sleep apnea. In cases where an underlying medical condition might be to blame, treating that condition is often the first step.

Simply contact your PCP to schedule an appointment to discuss a treatment plan.  There are a few options for treating sleep apnea, including CPAP, oral appliances, and surgery.

When CPAP is not an option, or you prefer a different approach, doctors that specialize in sleep dentistry, such as Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine, offer oral appliances as an excellent alternative to CPAP. These devices are worn in your mouth while you sleep and help keep your airway open. They are noninvasive and nonintrusive, offering a custom fit, are comfortable to wear, and are covered by most medical insurance plans.

Your fabulous beach body may be just around the corner! To speak to someone who can help get you started, contact Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine today at (724)935-6670 and one of our staff members will help guide you to an effective treatment plan. 

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