As the new year approached, I watched commercials on TV touting weight loss programs and products. Everything from gym memberships to meal plans to home fitness equipment were being promoted as effective solutions for weight loss. And, losing weight has become big business in America.
The number of obese Americans (those who are beyond fat) is at a whopping 35%, which is more than a third of the population. Yet, in spite of all these weight loss options, there is often a cycle of one-step-forward-two-steps-back for adults struggling to lose weight and keep it off.
There has been a growing awareness of the hazards of America’s excess sugar consumption. When you consider the amount of sugar in foods (even those not categorized as sweets, such as Catsup) and beverages (from colas to energy drinks to fruit juice), adults are learning to make wiser choices with what they put into their bodies.
With this awareness has been a growing trend in ‘eating natural.’ While some food and beverage manufacturers have distorted what is deemed ‘natural,’ more Americans are leaning towards organic, antibiotic free, and ‘grass fed’ in spite of their higher prices.
Yet, every January, fitness centers fill up and calorie-counting begins. By Easter, however, the drop-off rate of those who dove enthusiastically into the new year with weight loss goals is drastic. While an estimated 40% of Americans make new year’s resolutions, a mere 8% actually achieve their goals, according to 2013 research at the University of Scranton (read article published by Boston University: http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/about-those-new-years-resolutions/).
Losing weight is a long, slow process that requires commitment to a healthy diet and regular exercise. However, new studies are now revealing that losing weight may be made more challenging for those who have sleep disorders.
The battle to lose weight often becomes a battle of willpower. But does ‘willpower’ work against those who have sleep disorders? While diet and exercise are certainly factors that influence weight, studies now show that Sleep Apnea can alter the brain so it is actually working against us.
Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder that deprives the body of sufficient oxygen during sleep. Sleep Apnea sufferers can experience unconscious pauses in breathing for up to a minute. These pauses can occur hundreds of times per night. Not only does this depletion of oxygen to the heart and brain pose an enormous health risk, it has been found to alter the brain’s ability to regulate hunger controls.
Common symptoms of Sleep Apnea are daytime fatigue, nodding off easily, feeling less alert and energetic, and being more accident prone. It has been said that Sleep Apnea sufferers behind the wheel are more dangerous than drunk drivers.
It’s difficult to talk yourself into hitting the treadmilll when your body is begging for a nap. And, it’s also difficult to reach for a carrot when your brain is craving a cookie. In addition to lacking the energy and drive to exercise, Sleep Apnea patients also endure a reaction in the brain that revs up cravings for a quick fix of energy.
After consuming sweets and carbohydrates, we experience a temporary boost of energy. The brain knows this will perk you up when sleep deprivation drags you down. When carb cravings are triggered by the brain to keep you going, weight gain is the natural result. Thus, those who are trying to lose weight under these conditions are fighting an uphill battle.
Modern research has found that the brain is actually very active during sleep. In REM sleep, the brain is busy removing toxins and other elements that have accumulated during the day. During this time, the brain can restore itself to peak efficiency to properly regulate hormones and other functions in the body. Some hormones trigger hunger cravings and others signal feeling full.
The intake of sufficient oxygen levels during sleep allows the brain to reset itself to keep these hormones operating efficiently for the coming day. When you wake up refreshed from a good night’s sleep, your brain has no need to trigger carbohydrate cravings to pull you out of sluggishness. Nor does it need to urge you to eat more when you really don’t need it.
In addition to fatigue, sleepiness, feeling foggy and food cravings, Sleep Apnea has been linked to a number of serious health problems. These include heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, and impotency.
Once diagnosed, a common therapy for many Sleep Apnea sufferers is sleeping with a CPAP device. This is a mask worn over the face during sleep. It is attached to a fan that pushes air into airway passages. Although CPAP is an effective oxygen delivery system, it is estimated that only 22% of those who have been prescribed CPAP are consistent users. Many claim they are unable to get comfortable in bed with the mask, find the devices noisy, feel claustrophobic, find them inconvenient and feel embarrassed by having to wear them.
For mild to moderate Sleep Apnea sufferers, there is an alternative. We offer a small, custom-designed oral appliance that eliminates the need for CPAP. Our Oravan mouth pieces are FDA-approved and comfortable so they don’t interfere with sleep. They are also effective for heavy snorers (a common precursor of Sleep Apnea).
If you are a heavy snorer or suspect you suffer with Sleep Apnea, these problems will not go away on their own. It is vital to your health to restore your sleep quality and ensure you are taking in sufficient oxygen.
Begin with a no-cost Consultation to discuss these comfortable appliances. If desired, we can put you in touch with patients who use our Oravan mouth pieces and now sleep restfully and wake up feeling refreshed. Call 1-877-966-9009 to schedule or to learn more.