Obesity, sleep disorders go hand-in-hand

Studies show that many people who are obese also suffer from sleep disorders. Not only is obesity associated with sleep-disordered breathing due to compromised respiratory function, but sleep disorders also can make people less active, which can contribute to obesity. Needless to say, this results in a very unhealthy cycle.

With sleep apnea, the airflow to the lungs is reduced, and this can be due to the abdomen being larger as well as the circumference of the neck. According to Dr. Margaret Moline and Dr. Lauren Broch, two sleep specialists at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, as a person gains weight, especially in the trunk and neck area, the risk of sleep-disordered breathing increases due to compromised respiratory function.

Sleep-disordered breathing also may contribute to obesity as daytime sleepiness makes it hard to sustain an exercise program. Those with sleep apnea can be very tired and sluggish because they have not gotten a full night of restful sleep, and they really don’t feel like doing anything, especially exercising.

As most of us already know, diet and exercise are the keys to losing weight. If you’re having trouble sleeping, here are some tips for getting better sleep:

• Establish a regular routine - this includes going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

• Get an adequate amount of sleep every night. Determine the amount of sleep you need by keeping track of how long you sleep without using an alarm clock for a week. Maintain this personal sleep requirement.

• Go to bed when you are sleepy. If you have difficulty falling asleep or wake up shortly after going to sleep, leave the bedroom and read quietly or do some other relaxing activity.

• Develop sleep rituals before going to bed. Do the same things in the same order before going to bed to cue your body to slow down and relax.

• Avoid doing other activities in bed like watching TV, paying bills or working, as they only serve to initiate worries and concerns.

• Avoid heavy meals late in the evening, and avoid going to bed hungry. A light snack, especially dairy foods, can help you sleep.

• Reduce your intake of caffeine and nicotine four to six hours before going to sleep. Stimulants interfere with your ability to fall asleep and progress into deep sleep.

• Avoid alcohol four to six hours before bedtime. As a depressant that slows brain activity, alcohol may initially make you tired, but you will end up having fragmented sleep. In addition, being tired intensifies the effects of alcohol.

• Exercise regularly. Regular exercise even for 20 minutes, three times a week, promotes deep sleep.

• Don’t nap for more than 30 minutes or after 3 p.m. Avoiding naps all together will ensure that you are tired at night. Longer naps disrupt the body’s ability to stay asleep.

If you think you may have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder, call the Blount Memorial Sleep Health Center at 865-982-4637.

Dana Bradley is a registered nurse, certified bariatric nurse and bariatric coordinator for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

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