Overweight people are known to be more likely to suffer from a sleep disordered breathing (SDB) condition because of the build up of fatty deposits in the soft tissue of the tongue, soft palate and pharyngeal walls. The enlarged tissues encroach on the upper airway, causing restriction or blockages.
But it is NOT just a matter of ‘Fat people snore.” More and more research is pointing to the fact that “Snoring people get fat.”
Worse still, there is clear evidence that sleep disordered breathing is a significant contributor to hypertension (high blood pressure) and type 2 diabetes.
In one extremely well written paper, by Dr Ralph Pascualy of the Swedish Sleep Medicine Institute, the link between the conditions is explained thus:
“…several clear relationships have been shown between sleep deprivation and metabolic abnormalities. Sleep debt strongly affects glucose utilization as well as circadian cycles of thyrotropin, cortisol, growth hormone, and other physiological variables.
Sleep debt alone is reported to result in impaired glucose effectiveness similar to that found in non-insulin-dependent diabetics. Severe OSA significantly influences plasma insulin and glycemia and may increase the risk of diabetes independently of obesity. Not all OSA patients are obese; however, insulin resistance is found in both obese and non-obese OSA patients. Blood pressure and fasting insulin correlate closely with both BMI and the severity of OSA. Thus, both the sleep debt and the sympathetic activation that accompany OSA may speed the deterioration of glucose tolerance. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia lead to further sympathetic activation, thus completing the circle of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and the related metabolic abnormalities.”
In simple terms: sleep disordered breathing leads to reduced blood oxygen levels and increased blood pressure. As a result, the body’s metabolism is retarded – which makes it easier to gain weight, and harder to lose it.
Failure to treat a sleep disordered breathing condition puts a sufferer on a downward spiral — because the SDB leads to weight gain, which makes the SDB worse, which makes the weight gain worse … and so on.
The full article is available in the ‘Research’ section of this website.