It happens to most people when they age. A few pounds here, an extra pound there. Gaining weight as we get older is a normal part of life. But for many people who put on more than just a few pounds, gaining weight is becoming a serious issue that is not only inconvenient and uncomfortable, but also results in health problems, disease, and possibly even early death related to snoring.
Does Obesity Cause Snoring?
Snoring is prevalent in more than 90 million people in America and almost half of these are estimated to have habitual or chronic snoring. Snoring can be caused by a variety of problems including sinus congestion, structural abnormalities of the face, swollen tonsils and adenoids, and various other concerns. It’s a common problem which many people don’t really pay much attention to except for the fact that it keeps their spouses or roommates from sleeping well at night.
A bit of snoring on an occasional basis is usually not something that should cause serious concern if it’s associated with a cold, seasonal allergies, or some other resolvable problem. But when snoring lasts long-term, it could be interrupting not only sleep but healthy body functions as well. As snoring may often indicate a lack of oxygen getting to the brain, it should be taken seriously if it goes on for more than three weeks at a time.
One of the main preventable causes of chronic snoring is due to excess weight and obesity. So the answer is, yes, obesity does cause snoring in a large number of people. This is particularly true for people who happen to have a large neck circumference, more than 17” for men and 16” for women. Other issues that may contribute to snoring include aging, sleep posture, use of alcohol, and smoking.
Link Between Snoring and Obesity
The connection between snoring and obesity is fairly clearly made. Obesity or excess weight often creates deposits of fatty tissue and poor muscle tone in the neck, throat, and face. When this happens, these tissue deposits can press in on the airways, narrowing them and creating blockages. When the air coming through the breathing passages is restricted and turbulent, vibrations occur that create the noise that we commonly call snoring.
Obesity and Sleep Apnea
One of the reasons that snoring and obesity should be taken seriously is that snoring can be an indication of a severe health condition called obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder in which the body is unable to breathe as it should during sleep, leading to temporary pauses in breathing causing oxygen deprivation to the brain and body. When the brain realizes that there is a shortage of oxygen, it jolts the body awake using a burst of adrenaline. This gets the body breathing again effectively, but also interrupts the sleep.
People who have severe sleep apnea may experience many dozens of these pauses in breathing and jolting awake each hour throughout the night. Not only is sleep apnea related to loss of sleep as well as obesity and snoring, but it can also bring on other health problems including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, additional weight gain and even premature death.
If you have several of these symptoms of sleep apnea then you should contact a medical professional immediately for a checkup:
- Loud snoring
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
- Observed episodes of stopping breathing during sleep
- Waking up with a sore throat and/or dry mouth
- Headaches in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating and memory loss
- Emotional changes and mood swings
- Waking up abruptly with choking, coughing, or gasping for air
- High blood pressure
Solutions for Obesity and Snoring
The good news about the direct connection between obesity and snoring is that losing weight is a direct solution for correcting the problem. While the solution of losing weight to stop snoring is simple, it certainly is not always easy. Especially when the interruptions in sleep caused by snoring may actually be causing you to gain more weight rather than losing it. This means that eliminating the weight and reducing the snoring may not happen all at once.
Many people who have obesity and snoring related to sleep apnea have trouble losing weight and may need some help through the use of a breathing machine. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine works to restore breathing during sleep, helping to reduce the resistance the body has to losing weight.
Other temporary solutions for snoring may work effectively to temporarily reduce issues with snoring. These solutions may include adhesive nasal strips, rubber cone inserted into the nose to open up the nasal passages, mouth guards to keep the tongue from falling back into the throat, or special pillows that keep the head propped up and reduce the tendency for gravity to cause snoring. Reducing the use of alcohol and stopping smoking can also help to reduce smoking.
In addition, of course, a healthier diet and exercise regime have always stood the test of time for people who need to lose weight for health purposes. Join a gym, commit to walking to work instead of driving, and contact a dietician to help you get the most out of the food that you eat. Some obese people who snore and have sleep apnea will find that they are candidates for gastric bypass surgery to help them lose weight rapidly and then keep it off. Once the weight is lost, the snoring and sleep apnea may have a tendency to subside on their own.
Snoring and obesity can be a very serious problem that effect your health but they don’t have to ruin your entire life. When you start by making a few, simple natural lifestyle changes, and seeing a medical professional to help you, you can succeed in changing the trajectory of your life by losing weight, reducing snoring, and taking the rest of your life back. You’ll start getting some sleep and feeling better on all fronts.