Obesity- A major Risk factor for Sleep Apnea

Blog by: Vaishali Khanna


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a potentially life-altering and life-threatening breathing disorder that occurs during sleep.


The upper airway repeatedly collapses,causing cessation of breathing(apnea) or inadequate breathing (hypoapnea) and sleep fragmentation.The breathing stops during sleep for 10 seconds to a minute or longer.Oxygen levels in the blood decrease.Sleep fragmentation results in chronic daytime sleepiness.This disrupts healthy sleep and causes a number of short term and long lasting effects that threaten the health and well being of those who suffer from the condition.

How many people have OSA?


4% of men and 2 % of women aged 30-60 years meet minimal diagnostic criteria for OSA with excessive daytime sleepiness.


People most likely to have or develop OSA may have any of the following:

  • Obesity,especially in the upper body
  • Male gender
  • Small upper airway due to excess throat tissue or abdominal jaw structure
  • Nasal Obstruction
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Family History of OSA
  • Overweight Obese indivisuals


Excess body fat on the neck and chest constricts the air passage ways and sometimes the lungs.Obesity,particularly abdominal and upper body obesity,is the most significant risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea.The more obese a person,the greater the risk of apnea


General things that can make a big difference include:

  • Losing some weight,if you are overweight or obese
  • Avoid alcohol,sedative and hypnotics
  • Sleeping on your side or in a semi propped position


If you have sleep apnea,do not take sleep medicines or sedatives.These chemicals will increase the relaxation in the tissues of the upper airway and make the obstruction worse.The specific treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is usually a mask worn at night to keep the airway open.




If OSA is left untreated,it can increase the risk of developing:


Cardiac arrhythmias

Myocardial ischemia


Decreased quality of life



Not only does sustained weight loss improve OSA,it also improves many other independently linked co-morbidities such as Hypertension,high cholesterol and diabetes.The greater the change in body weight or waist circumference,the greater is the improvement in OSA.


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