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The Link Between Weight and Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a sleep disorder where the patient's airway closes during sleep; while everyone's upper throat muscles relax during sleep, sleep apnea patients have a narrower throat area. As a result, air cannot reach the lungs.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring, labored breathing, and brief periods of ceased breathing (which usually last ten seconds). Since breathing problems disrupt the patient's quality of sleep, daytime sleepiness may result. The NIH notes that other outcomes of sleep apnea include insomnia, depression, memory problems, restless sleep, morning headaches, poor concentration, personality changes, and waking during the night to urinate.

But what causes sleep apnea? Part of it is the construction of the patient's nose, mouth, and throat: nasal obstruction, a narrow airway, a large tongue, neck, or tonsils can all be causes, according to the NIH. But another factor in sleep apnea is obesity. Science Daily reports a study presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies show the direct link between weight and sleep apnea occurrence.

The researchers used 3,001 men and women; 55.2 percent of the participants were women. Each of the participants were classified by the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea: subjects with no sleep apnea were given an apnea-hypopnea index of under five; subjects with moderate sleep apnea were given an apnea-hypopnea index of between five and 15; subjects with severe sleep apnea were given an apnea-hypopnea index of above 15. The body mass index (BMI) of each participant were recorded, and participants were monitored for five years.

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