Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat s...

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Obesity has become far too common in our society and unfortunately, keeps getting worse. An alarming two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese – about 34 percent of adults and 17 percent of children. This is absolutely jaw dropping, not to mention frightening.

As you can imagine, there are many dangers to being overweight and obese and the more excess there is, the greater the list of complications grows. Some of these issues include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, osteoarthritis, gout, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, gallstones and asthma. It’s probably no surprise that sleep complications also make the cut. In fact, a very high percentage of older adults who are obese report having sleep problems.

Obesity-related sleep problems tend to show up in the form of sleep apnea, which essentially leads to sleep deprivation. According to Margaret Moline, PhD, and Lauren Broch, PhD, two sleep specialists at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, as a person gains weight, specifically in the torso and neck area of the body, the risk of sleep-disordered breathing escalates because of restricted respiratory function.

Sleep deprivation combined with obesity creates a vicious cycle, since it can continue to contribute to weight gain. Reason being, people become less motivated – specifically with exercise – and more prone to making poor food choices when their sleep suffers.

Often times, addressing the issue of sleep alone is the best ways to treat obesity. Reducing sleepiness can increase a person’s motivation to lose weight, exercise and make better food choices. In turn, this will help both the sleep apnea and weight problem. Even as little as a 10 percent decrease in weight can lead to a considerable improvement in the severity of sleep apnea.

If you or someone you know is obese or severely overweight and experiencing sleep apnea, please talk to your primary care physician about seeing a sleep specialist. After addressing the sleep complications, then a weight loss plan can be put into place.


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