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Bariatric Surgery Can Help You Sleep Better

October 14, 2022

If you’re severely overweight or obese, you’re likely jolted out of sleep several times every night -- without even knowing it. Or, you may already spend your slumber hours hooked up to a CPAP machine to keep your breathing steady.

Lose a great deal of weight via bariatric surgery or another means, and you’ll likely sleep just fine, no gizmos needed.

Obesity Can Cause Sleep Apnea

Obesity can cause obstructive sleep apnea, meaning your breathing pauses several times a night. The body wakes itself up because it’s desperate to take in more oxygen. CPAPs, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure devices, are machines that manage the problem by keeping airways open during rest.

The overweight are far from alone in struggling with sleep apnea. More than 20 percent of men and 17 percent of women worldwide have some type of this condition, according to the American Sleep Association. Age, smoking, alcohol and opioid use, large necks and family history are among other causes. Still, obesity causes one type of sleep apnea, and weight loss often fixes the problem.

At the same time, it sounds topsy-turvy, but sleep apnea can be a cause of obesity. Sleep poorly and you’ll produce less of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin and more of the appetite stimulant ghrelin.

How Obesity Causes You To Wake Up

The situation is distinctive for those who are severely overweight. In that case, the bulk itself causes the sleep apnea. Here are three ways:

  • Weight obstructs the diaphragm. When you inhale, your lungs push a muscle called the diaphragm down to the belly. If there’s too much weight in your belly area, it’s more difficult to both push that diaphragm down and open your lungs.
  • Large necks make it harder to breathe. Extra weight in the neck closes down the trachea, commonly known as the windpipe. That causes snoring, which can wake you up. In this situation, air has a quarter to a half less space to move from your mouth or nose through your windpipe to your diaphragm and lungs.
  • The tongue is bigger, too. Even tongues are larger when obesity is an issue. The tongue tissue gets thicker. That in turn obstructs your airway.

Less air — by all these means — leads to less oxygenation in your blood. And if your blood doesn’t receive enough oxygen, you’re going to wake up. We have a reflex mechanism that makes sure to get us into a position where we’re forced to breathe — although the intermission is so brief that we often don’t know we’re awakened. That’s how human bodies work.

In total, more than 70 percent of obese people have sleep apnea for these reasons. It’s dangerous. You can die in your sleep because of sleep apnea. That’s why it’s important to use a CPAP if you’re diagnosed as needing one.

Lose Weight To End Sleep Apnea

If excess weight causes your sleep apnea, then shedding pounds might end it. That applies no matter how you get thinner: by dieting, exercising and/or a form of bariatric surgery.

As your body mass decreases, breathing becomes easier. You won’t have to work as hard to breathe while you’re asleep. Your tongue, neck and torso bulk will no longer cause snoring, and they won’t get in the way or force your body to work harder.

Ultimately, you’ll sleep better as a result, which means you’ll wake up more rested. That leads to being more energetic and productive during the day. That’s the case whether you need four hours of sleep a night or 10.

It also might lead to you not needing a CPAP machine anymore. The majority of bariatric patients stop needing their CPAP machines once they’ve lost a significant amount of weight.

Wake up to a new era of your life.

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