As the year comes to a close, millions of Americans will begin planning their New Year’s Resolutions. One goal at the top of many lists will no doubt be to lose weight. In fact, a 2014 Journal of Clinical Psychology study found weight loss to be the number one resolution this year. However, despite the fact that 45% of Americans made resolutions, the study found that only 8% were successful in those attempts.
Planning to lose weight year after year only to find yourself unsuccessful can be discouraging, especially if you feel your efforts are just not producing results. One key ingredient of weight loss that you might have overlooked, though, is sleep. Researchers are discovering that your nightly slumber plays an important role in weight loss by regulating your hormones and energizing you for the day.
In examining prevalent myths and facts about sleep, the National Sleep Foundation found a relationship between the quality and quantity of your sleep and many health problems, including obesity. They discovered that failure to get adequate sleep affects growth hormones that are linked to obesity. Conversely, getting adequate sleep can balance your appetite by regulating your levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and satiety. However, when your body is sleep-deprived, it makes more ghrelin, which tells your brain to eat. Leptin, conversely, tells your brain when you are full. When you are sleep-deprived, Leptin levels are very low. Thus, lack of sleep could be leading you to eat more and, therefore, gain weight or fail in your weight loss attempts.Furthermore, when you sleep poorly, it can be difficult to find the energy and motivation to eat well and exercise.
While “sleeping more” might seem like an easy solution, the problem isn’t always so simple, especially for those struggling with a sleep condition such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The American Sleep Apnea Association describes the condition as an “involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while the patient is asleep” due to an obstruction of the airway, which takes place when the tongue and muscles relax during sleep, the lower jaw falls back toward the throat or the airway becomes blocked. People with untreated sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times a night without realizing it and often deal with chronic snoring. Sleep is generally interrupted and fitful; understandably, those suffering from OSA frequently experience insomnia, fatigue, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches and weight gain. In fact, according to Harvard Health, there is a well established link between OSA and excess weight.
Treating OSA is not a guarantee of weight loss, says Dr. Frankie Roman, MD, in an interview for the National Sleep Foundation. However, the hope is that if the condition is controlled, it will lead to better rest and, as a result, less fluctuation in the hormones associated with hunger. Additionally, getting proper rest can energize you mentally and physically to participate in weight loss programs and exercise regimens and to make better dietary choices.
If you are struggling with your weight and experiencing other symptoms of OSA, such as snoring and daytime sleepiness, you may want to consider speaking with your doctor about getting a sleep study, which will confirm whether or not you have sleep apnea. If you are diagnosed, there are a number of treatment options available, including lifestyle changes, surgery, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Oral Appliance Therapy.
Oral Appliance Therapy works to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep, thus preventing snoring and interruptions in sleep. The appliance is similar to an athletic mouth guard but is less bulky. Additionally, it is covered by most insurance plans and Medicare. The good news is that patients whose OSA is treated may be more successful at their weight loss resolutions, and, in turn, losing weight may lead to an improvement in the symptoms of sleep apnea.
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