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How Weight Gain Can Cause Sleep Apnea

    Sleep apnea is one of the most dangerous sleep disorders. A person with this condition will experience repeated stopping of breathing during the night. In extreme cases, some will experience up to five breathing interruptions. If left unchecked, it could cause stroke and choking, among others, while the person is sleep.

    Sleep apnea has many possible causes with weight gain being just one of them. In fact, even a thin person can have sleep apnea. Weight gain, however, brings about sleep apnea for those who initially do not have it. What is worse is, weight gain starts a vicious cycle that causes more weight gain and aggravating sleep apnea further.

    What is it with weight gain that causes sleep apnea? What is the effect of sleep apnea with weight gain? How can one get out of the cycle and deal with sleep apnea once and for all?

    Common Causes of Sleep Apnea

    During sleep, the muscles of the tongue and the throat are relaxed. In a person with ideal head structure, these relaxed muscles do not often get in the way of breathing. To some, however, these relaxed muscles reduce the space where the air could flow. The increase in the pressure of air flow causes these structures to vibrate which produce the sound of snoring.

    In order to have an of how weight gain causes sleep apnea or aggravate an existing condition, let us explore first the common causes of sleep apnea.

    Dental Conditions

    The most common causes of sleep apnea in children is dental conditions. One common dental condition is bruxism or teeth grinding. During teeth grinding, a person has tensed jaw muscles. This reduces the space inside the mouth and the opening of the throat that contributes to snoring and blockage in breathing.

    Another is bruxism or the overlapping, crooked or twisted growth of teeth. Bruxism is not the main problem, though, but what causes it—small mouth. Bruxism, however, worsens the case.

    Enlarged Adenoids and Tonsil

    The structure of the tonsil the role of the adenoids in fighting off bacteria and viruses make these two body parts particularly susceptive to infection and inflammation. Common cold, for instance, which is caused by viruses, can easily result in tonsillitis and inflammation of the adenoids. The enlargement of both the adenoids and the tonsils during inflammation drastically reduces the space inside the mouth. Its effect can vary from a minor snoring problem to a serious obstructive sleep apnea.

    Birth defects

    Sleep apnea can also be caused by birth defects (although this is pretty rare) such as Down syndrome and Pierre-Robin syndrome. In Pierre-Robin syndrome, the lower jaw of the patient is smaller than usual and the tongue tends to swell up and push toward the back of the throat. In Down syndrome, the muscle tone in the upper airway is weaker than normal and tonsils, adenoids and tongue are enlarged.

    Weight Gain and Snoring

    The conditions listed above are common causes of sleep apnea for a person of normal body build (with minimal body fat index). A person might have the conditions above but not suffer from sleep apnea. However, weight gain almost always causes sleep apnea due to the buildup of tissues inside the mouth particularly at the back of the throat.

    Weight gain promotes the buildup of fat tissues at the back of the throat and effectively reduces the available space for the air. As the person gains more weight, the available space decreases, as well. When combined with conditions mentioned above, sleep apnea progresses into a more serious condition: chronic obstructive sleep apnea where a person will wake up many times in the night to gasp for air after stopping to breathe for a few seconds to few minutes.

    Weight Gain and Sleep Apnea Cycle

    Weight gain starts a cycle that makes both sleep apnea and weight gain progressively worse.

    As a person gains weight and experience sleep apnea, the quality of his or her sleep dwindles, as well. Without medical intervention, sleep deprivation will continue until such a point that it starts messing up with the person’s metabolism. Sleep deprivation has been proven by many studies to cause weight gain.

    The cycle continues on—a person gains weight and his or her sleep apnea worsens resulting in more weight gain and worse sleep apnea. With this type of cycle, unless a person subjects himself or herself into a treatment, losing weight would be very difficult if not impossible.

    In addition, sleep deprivation weakens the muscles at the back of the throat thereby making them floppy. This does not only aggravate the condition, but it contributes to the blockage. A person can stop breathing for a couple of minutes because of this.

    In a short period, a person’s health will begin declining and will continue to do so until it is already late for medical intervention.


    The best way to deal with sleep apnea and weight gain is to act as early as possible. As soon as apnea is suspected, a person must take actions in order to lose weight. Preventive measures must be instituted before the condition starts to get worse.

    Observing the nature of the cycle, it is also possible that it could be started with sleep deprivation. In our fast-paced society nowadays, it seems that people tend to sacrifice sleep time more for productivity. In addition, lots and lots of activities are keeping us from falling sleep—social media, Internet surfing, mobile gaming, and television. Our exposure to blue light messes up with our circadian rhythm and makes falling sleep difficult.

    Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain—and this is the point where everything starts to get worse for sleep apnea.

    In the end, three basic things contribute to preventing the cycle and achieving a healthy body: leading a healthy lifestyle. This involves keeping one’s body weight in check by exercising regularly, eating healthily and getting enough of quality sleep. If, after having this, one still has sleep apnea, medical intervention is a non-arguable solution that one must take.


    Author: Usman Raza is a freelance writer, marketing specialist at and co-founder of When not working, he’s probably spending time with his family. Follow him on Facebook @usmanraza40 and Twitter @usmanintrotech.