Is Sleep Apnea making me FAT?

by on December 27, 2016 | Posted in Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder that is caused when the soft tissues of the mouth and palate fall back and temporarily block the breathing passages. People with sleep apnea have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during their sleep due to an obstruction. These breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can happen hundreds of times throughout their sleep. Breathing eventually resumes with a loud gasp or a snort for air, as the person is temporarily woken up from a deep sleep.  One of the many medical consequences of sleep apnea includes excess weight gain or obesity. A physical indication of sleep apnea can be a neck size greater than 17.5 inches (for men), others include: having a small upper airway, large tongue, tonsils, or uvula; having a recessed chin, small jaw, or a large overbite; smoking and alcohol use; and being 40 or older.  

In a study published by International Journal of Obesity, researches from the University of Helsinki found that among 5,700 middle-aged women, those who struggled with weight gain also had difficulty sleeping, in comparison to their peers who got the recommended eight hours a night. In another clinical study performed by University of Colorado Boulder, Dr. Kenneth Wright and colleagues found that men who only slept five hours a night put on two pounds within one week, yikes! “Just getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain. But when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they actually need”, Dr. Wright.

So how exactly does the lack of sleep affects our ability to control weight ? It has to do with hormones- Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight. Many obese people have built up a resistance to the appetite-suppressing effects of leptin. When we are sleep-deprived, research has discovered that our bodies produce more ghrelin and less leptin.  In addition, those who are overweight are more likely to develop Sleep Apnea.

Another hormone affected by sleep disorders is insulin. When you do not sleep well, your cells block insulin’s efforts to transmit glucose into our cells, placing u at a higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes.  Also, insulin progresses the release of leptin, the “stop eating” hormone. So in conclusion-  sleep deprivation causes your cells to reject insulin, making less leptin, which means more eating, and more weight gain.

Ok! So finally some good news! Raphaelson Dental Sleep Center offers free airway evaluations to determine whether there are any obstructions in the airway that can be causing obstructive sleep apnea. We also provide our patients with at convenient home sleep study that identifies and diagnoses sleep apnea.  And best of all, most major medical insurance offer benefits for sleep apnea treatment. 


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Snoring can be a sign of a medical condition not only damaging to you health, but also to your relationship with your bed partner. All kidding aside snoring is no laughing matter (although your bed partner is probably is not thrilled about it). Snoring can be sign that your airway is not open and there can be a possible obstruction. Some snorers spend most of the night gasping for air due to a condition called Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea causes pauses in your breath interrupting your sleep and decreasing your blood oxygen levels. These sudden drops in blood oxygen levels during sleep apnea episodes increases your blood pressure and overworks the cardiovascular system and other major organs. If you have obstructive sleep apnea you have a higher risk of developing High Blood Pressure. Obstructive sleep apnea will also increase your risk of Heart Attack, Abnormal Heartbeats, and Stroke. If you already suffer from any Heart disease, you should be aware that multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from an irregular heartbeat. Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it, a family member or bed partner will often be first to notice signs and will ask their sleep partner to seek treatment. Many snorers at this point will either call their doctor for a referral to a Sleep Dentist that can make them a custom oral appliance or hope they find some sort of  “DIY boil and bite” online or at a local drug store.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has approved oral appliance therapy (OAT) as a first line treatment for patients diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Cheap, over-the-counter appliances are clinically unproven and can be potentially dangerous.  Just because they are inexpensive and convenient does not mean you should try them! Do you remember the saying ” You get what you pay for?”  Most of these oral appliances are not FDA approved for Sleep Apnea despite their claims of being effective and proven to help. When these boil and bites are not fitted properly, (which is often the case since most people are not dental professionals that have experience taking proper impressions of teeth) these over-the-counter appliances can cause unwanted side effects, such as jaw problems, tooth movement or can even have an adverse effect- worsening your sleep apnea. At the Raphaelson Dental Sleep Center, we use the best materials and labs to create a custom, comfortable, and durable oral appliance with a precise fit. Also, we follow up on all oral appliance treatment with a diagnostic sleep study ensuring that the oral appliance fits and functions properly, treating Sleep Apnea.  Another issue with these “do it your self oral appliances” according to Dr. Alan Lowe, professor of orthodontics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, is that they mask a relief in snoring without addressing the apnea. Many people often overlook what is called “silent apnea” that could still threaten their health or even lead to death.

So here is The Bottom Line- People with Sleep Apnea need to seek professional help from a doctor or a dental sleep specialist. If an oral appliance is an option for you, it should be fitted by a dentist specially trained in Dental Sleep Medicine. All of our dental sleep specialists at the Raphaelson Dental Sleep Center are qualified and trained in Dental Sleep Medicine, offering our patients optimal care in diagnosing and treating Sleep Apnea. If you believe you have Sleep Apnea please call our office for a complimentary Airway Evaluation. Most major medical insurances are accepted and offer benefits for Oral Appliance Therapy. Let us help you “Transform your sleep, and Redefine your Health”

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Federal officials now say that sleep apnea played a role in the Hoboken Terminal Crash that occurred on September 29, 2016, which caused the fatal death of a woman and injury to over a hundred people. It has been confirmed that Thomas Gallagher, 48, who was the operator of the train, has been diagnosed with sleep apnea. The crash occurred at the Hoboken Terminal, at double the speed limit of 10mph. Thomas Gallagher told investigators that he had no recollection of the crash and only remembered waking up on the floor of the train cab.

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a safety advisory that will urge railroads to screen and treat their engineers for Sleep Apnea. Those that are diagnosed with Sleep Apnea will not be able to operate a train until they are treated. They have also suggested installing inward facing cameras in train cabs to record and monitor the engineers actions and speed (especially in stations where the tracks end at a platform). This will help aid in any future investigations. The federal agency first recognized that Sleep Apnea was problem in 2004, when it began revising and outlining safety regulations for operating a train. Currently, engineers only have their vision and hearing tested every three years, as of a physical screening required by their job.

Amtrak, Metro North, and some freight railroads have already implemented screenings and treatment for Sleep Apnea. An interesting statistic- According to spokesman Aaron Donovan for Metro-North (a commuter railroad in New York City suburbs) a recent study found that 1 out of 9 of its engineers has Sleep Apnea.  Metro North also had a deadly Sleep Apnea related crash in 2013, killing four people.

So what exactly is Sleep Apnea? Sleep apnea is chronic condition that causes one or more pauses in your breathing disrupting your sleep. Many people with Sleep Apnea suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, increasing their risk of an accident.  Sleep Apnea can also increase the risk of recurrent Heart Attacks and abnormal heart beats as a result of low blood oxygen.  It has also been related to other medical conditions such as Stroke, Diabetes, Depression, ADHD, and weight gain.

Some Sleep Apnea symptoms to we aware of:

  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat or dry mouth
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Attention problems
  • Irritability
  • Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself
  • Shortness of breath, gasping for air or choking that awakens you from sleep
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you’re working, watching television or even driving

As of now, the Long Island Railroad is in the process putting into effect sleep apnea screenings as part of their safety protocols. We are pleased that the Federal Railroad Administration is recognizing the dangers of untreated Sleep Apnea. If you have or know someone who displays any of the Sleep Apnea Symptoms that are mentioned above, please call our office to schedule a complimentary Airway Evaluation. Sleep Apnea can be easily treated with a custom made oral appliance, fitting much like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. It supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway. Also, it is many times a benefit that is covered by your medical insurance. At Raphaelson Dental Sleep Center, we are concerned about our patients health and safety and we are looking forward to helping you achieve a restful sleep.

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