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Your Best Health: Adult Weight Management

Obstructive sleep apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Some people have trouble with sleep because of a health condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA causes the airways to become blocked as the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep. This can cause you to stop breathing for short periods many times when you’re sleeping. This then may cause you to wake up often. You may not remember waking up. People with OSA often have less oxygen in their blood when they sleep.

Common symptoms of OSA are

  • snoring
  • choking or gasping during sleep
  • feeling sleepy and very tired during the day

OSA is linked to weight gain in the same way as other sleep interruptions. When you’re tired it’s harder to make healthy changes to your lifestyle. Even if you think you’re getting enough sleep, you may not be getting a good, deep sleep because you’re waking up so often.

If your partner has told you that you snore or stop breathing during the night, or if you think you may have OSA, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. They’ll work with you to find out if you have OSA and talk about your treatment options. There are treatments for OSA that can help you to sleep better and feel more rested during the day. Stopping weight gain or losing weight may also improve your OSA symptoms.

Something to ask yourself ...

Go to your reflection journal and consider the following:

  • Have you been told that you snore?
  • Do you wake up feeling tired even though you’ve slept for 6 to 9 hours?

Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your sleep.

Case study: John's story

John is 22 years old now. He tried everything in his teen years to lose weight. But his weight kept climbing. He weighed over 300 pounds at his high school graduation. After graduation, John didn’t feel confident enough to move away from home and didn’t think he’d ever find a job.

One day while John was napping on the couch his dad noticed he had long pauses in his breathing. John’s dad videotaped him and the next day they took this video to the doctor. After some testing, John found out that he had obstructive sleep apnea. To treat the sleep apnea, he started using a CPAP machine that helped him to breathe better at night. ​

After a few weeks of treatment, John started to notice that he had more energy and wasn’t as tired during the day. He applied for a carpentry job and started working. John made some other lifestyle changes and started to lose weight.

He’s kept the weight off for over 2 years now. He’s still using his machine at night and likely always will. Making even more lifestyle changes has made it much easier for John to keep the weight off.​