Myth or Fact: Could I have Sleep Apnea if I’m Not Overweight?

26th February 2019

Read time is about 4 mins

Myth or Fact: Could I have Sleep Apnea if I’m Not Overweight?

One of the most common mistakes people make about sleep apnea is assuming that only overweight or obese individuals are afflicted with sleep apnea. This myth has very dangerous consequences, because it can prevent those suffering with sleep disorders from seeking treatment if they are thin.

It’s true that weight can be a significant contributor to this condition. Obesity is one of the most frequently cited risk factors for developing sleep apnea, but it’s far from being the only marker.

What is sleep apnea?

Let’s start by learning what sleep apnea actually is. This serious sleep disorder is characterized by the repeated collapse of a person’s airway during sleep, which causes momentary pauses in their breathing. These breaks (or “apneas”) lower the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream.

It’s important to note that snoring is not the same thing as sleep apnea. Snoring could be a consequence of a sleep disorder, but non-snores can be diagnosed with sleep apnea, too.

What causes sleep apnea?

Frequently, the causes of obstructive sleep apnea are anatomical and not (or not only) having to do with a person’s weight. It’s simply how they’re built! It could be related to an overcrowded upper airway, due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or a high/narrow arch of the oral cavity. All of these physical features can cause breathing trouble while asleep. Similarly, having a thicker neck can impede your sleep while lying down.

Another form of this sleep disorder is central sleep apnea. This is when there is miscommunication between the brain and respiratory system; your brain doesn’t send the proper signals to tell the muscles that control your breathing to activate.

In cases like these, weight loss will not cure or “fix” your sleep apnea. When the cause is mechanical or structural problem, it exists just as much in trim or athletic individuals.

What other signs of sleep apnea should I look for?

Now that we’ve established that individuals with thin body types can still suffer from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, let’s consider some of the other symptoms that could be a sign that you need a sleep study.

Unrestful sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness can be a sign that your sleep is troubled. Headaches, morning headaches in particular, are also a frequent sign of sleep apnea. Another unexpected symptom is if you wake up frequently to use the bathroom, despite limiting liquids in the evening. If you suffer from insomnia, or if you find you regularly wake up gasping, you should consider seeing your family doctor or Sleep Therapeutics for an assessment.

A sleep study can reveal what’s going on during your sleep, and the sleep professionals at Sleep Therapeutics can help you determine if treatment is necessary. Don’t cross your fingers and hope your sleep improves on its own! A poor night’s sleep as your only option – take action and let us help you!


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