Obesity is associated with several types of sleep disorders. Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur more than 30 times an hour. Because this condition can affect sleep, prematurely moving someone from deep to light sleep, this can result in inadequate sleep.
Though sleep apnea can affect anyone, it is more common in people who are overweight. Besides being tired during the day, untreated sleep apnea can also result in:
- Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes
- Increased risk of heart failure, and
- Irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias
The other primary sleep disorder associated with excess weight is obesity hypoventilation syndrome, or OHS. When a person inhales, the oxygen that they breathe in gets transferred to the blood vessels in the lungs while the carbon dioxide in the blood vessels is transferred to the lungs to be transported out of the body when a person exhales. This exchange normally results in healthy levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
OHS, however, occurs when there is too much carbon dioxide and too little oxygen in the blood. This health problem, if left untreated, can be fatal.