Sleep Apnea and Weight

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a syndrome that involves the obstruction of the upper airways of an individual during sleep. (Pillar & Shehadeh, 2008) This indicates that breathing during periods of sleep is more difficult for individuals with sleep apnea. This syndrome basically involves the inability of air to enter or exit through the individual’s nose during sleep. (Obioha, 2006) Sleep apnea is primarily characterized by snoring during sleep, fragmented sleep cycles of apnea and arousal, and periodic breathing. These cause the individual to have discontinuous sleep. (Lojander, Mustajoki, Ronka, Mecklin, & Maasilta, 1998)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been researched by numerous academicians and medical workers. It has been recognized to be a sleep disorder that can create great risks to an individual’s health. With the increased level of severity of sleep apnea comes the increase in the severity of the risks. Thus a low level of sleep apnea may only have annoying effects such as grumpiness, irritability, drowsiness during the day, and even lower memory retention abilities. More severe forms of sleep apnea, however, can cause an increase in blood pressure and may increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

(Obioha, 2006) Sleep apnea has also been linked to disproportionate amounts of weight gain in an individual. (Geier, 2004) One of the factors that have been more commonly linked to sleep apnea is weight. It has been seen that obesity is strongly linked to sleep apnea and vice versa. (Hakala, Maasilta, & SovijaErviz, 2000) One case study of a child displaying symptoms of the Pickwickian Syndrome even showed that sleep apnea is primarily a function of the individual’s weight. It was seen in this case study that obesity alone had caused the occurrence of sleep apnea.

(Simpser, Strieder, Wohl, Rosenthal, Rockenmacher, 1977) These facts show that weight, particularly obesity, is one of the more important research issues that need to be tackled when discussing sleep apnea. If the effects of sleep apnea are to be adequately addressed, one must be able to understand the totality of the relationship between sleep apnea and weight. This relationship may not only be causal in nature but may also be correlational. The increasing need to study sleep apnea, its symptoms, risk factors, and consequent effects on the individual are fast becoming clear as its prevalence continues to increase.

In middle-aged men and middle-aged women, the prevalence of sleep apnea is 4% to 5% and 2% to 3% respectively. The prevalence of the syndrome in obese individuals is much greater with 30% of the population experiencing sleep apnea. Those categorized as morbidly obese have a 50% to 98% chance of having sleep apnea. (Pillar & Shehadeh, 2008) An estimation of 18 million Americas are suspected to have sleep apnea. (Obioha, 2006) In children, the prevalence of sleep apnea is also great.

Although 3% to 12% of children are expected to snore, the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is still great with percentages of 1% to 10%. (Chan, Edman, & Koltai, 2004) The prevalence of sleep apnea in the general population and its potential to cause much harm in the health of those experiencing its symptoms strengthen the need for further research to be conducted regarding its mechanism. Understanding the relationship between sleep apnea and weight can help researchers and individuals in the medical field to better develop usable strategies for effective intervention in cases of sleep apnea.

Weight, being one of the more controllable features of sleep apnea, is one of the more promising research topics because intervention strategies can be centered around the manipulation of the individual’s weight in order to reduce or completely stop the occurrence of sleep apnea. Research Question or Questions This study aims to understand the relationship between sleep apnea and weight. Is weight a risk factor of sleep apnea? If so, how does weight affect the occurrence of sleep apnea? The main and primary research problem of the study is the determination of the relationship between sleep apnea and weight.

What is the relationship that exists between sleep apnea and weight? Research Hypothesis and Null Hypothesis Based on previous literature, it is hypothesized that weight is directly related to the occurrence of sleep apnea. Individuals with greater weight will be more likely to experience sleep apnea while those with lesser weight will have reduced experience or no experience at all of sleep apnea. It is hypothesized that consequent weight loss in cases with severe sleep apnea will lead to reduced or no experience of sleep apnea.

The null hypothesis states that there are no significant relationships between weight and sleep apnea. Identification of Variables The variables of the study are the participant’s weight, the symptoms of sleep apnea present, and the severity of the symptoms. The independent variable is the individual’s weight while the dependent variables are the symptoms and severity of the participant’s experience of sleep apnea. The variable of airflow and pulmonary functioning are also included. Operational Definitions Weight is operationally defined as the individual’s mass in kilograms.

Obesity is when the participant’s body mass index (BMI), which is the weight divided by the square of the height, is equal to or greater than 30 kg/m2. Mild obesity would mean a body mass index of 30 to 40 kg/m2. Weight loss, on the other hand, is operationally defined as reduction of the individual’s weight by at least 9. 1 kg. Annotated


Pillar, G. , & Shehadeh, N. (2008). Abdominal fat and sleep apnea: the chicken or the egg? Diabetes Care, 31, This article delineates the authors’ belief that obesity and obstructive sleep apnea are coreelational in nature.

Obstructive sleep apnea is seen to cause reduced physical activity, insulin resistance, and increased ghrelin levels. These factors lead to greater obesity in the individual experiencing the sleep apnea. However, obesity is also seen to cause fat deposits in the lumen of the upper airway, reduced tracheal traction, oval-shaping of the upper airway, and fat deposits in the muscles of the upper airway. The authors concluded that the interaction between and sleep apnea and weight could better be understood through a large-scale study.

However, it was clear that although present literature mainly supported the fact that obesity results to or can worsen obstructive sleep apnea, sleep apnea could also have similar effects on obesity. Obioha, U. O. (2006). Obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. Total Health, 28(4), 26-27. Obioha concentrated on a detailed and comprehensive description of sleep apnea. The individuals most likely to get sleep apnea were men, obese individuals, individuals with problems or defects in their upper airway, and snorers. The various effects of sleep apnea were also discussed in the article.

These ranged from emotional reactions to physical health risks. The causes of sleep apnea were pinpointed to be factors that caused mechanical or structural problems with the airway. Obesity contributed to this by causing the airway to narrow as a result of excess tissue. Effective management of sleep apnea was identified by Obioha through the use of nasal continuous positive airway pressure and weight loss. Hakala, K. , Maasilta, P. , & SovijaErviz, A. R. A. (2000). Upright body position and weight loss improve respiratory mechanics and daytime oxygenation in obese patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Clinical Physiology, 20(1), 50-55.

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