Published on March 21, 2023
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When you are overweight, you have excess body fat both inside and outside. Too many people never think about the fat on the inside because it’s easy NOT to; you don’t see it when you look in the mirror. And one of the things I talk about with every client at the initial consultation is how fat can build up on the inside of the throat. This alone can partially block your airway and not just during sleep.
Any extra bulk in this area is a bad thing. It gets worse though. When you sleep, the extra fat tissue puts pressure on the structures of the throat. This leads to further constriction.
You may already know that excess body fat influences your muscles. This is true for both internal and external fat. However, the effect is the same. All that extra weight that doesn’t support itself saps the strength from your muscles.
It is also worth noting that all the tissues in the throat become softer when you’re overweight. Softer throat tissues and loose muscles are two of the main reasons that older people are so prone to snoring. When you add softened tissues and loose muscles to partial blockage and extra pressure on the airway, you’re almost guaranteed to snore.
A little snoring here and there never hurt anyone. But obesity and snoring is a dangerous combination. If you are overweight, and do snore, has it affected your relationship with your partner? Are they sleeping in a different room?
Are you fighting to stay awake during the day? Do you feel sleepy and cranky? Do you suffer from a general overall fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, memory impairment? Do you awaken choking or gasping? Do you have morning headaches, dry mouth or sore throat? Are you able to sleep at all; do you have insomnia? Have any or all these circumstances lead to depression?
If the answer to any of those is yes, believe it or not, even THAT is not the worst aspect of snoring. What’s worse is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is a sleep-related breathing disorder that causes your body to actually stop breathing during sleep. OSA occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. And remember what I stated earlier: All of the tissues in the throat become softer when you’re overweight.
And if all of that isn’t bad enough, here’s another thing to know if you’re obese and have OSA: If you ever need surgery, the most important person in the room isn’t the surgeon; it’s the anesthesiologist! Why? Well, as I discuss in my article, Obesity in the O.R.–A Weight Dilemma for Anesthesiologists, obesity-related changes in anatomy have significant implications for obese patients requiring surgery and anesthesia . . . and one of those anatomy changes is in the airway management throughout the surgery.
If you are severely overweight, then you may not be able to find something that keeps you from snoring completely right away: anti-snoring devices can help, as can trying to sleep on your side. However, neither option will solve the problem. Only weight loss can.