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Sleep Problems Solved By Weight Loss


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Losing weight may be the most effective solution of reducing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder that causes people to wake several times during the night, says a new study.

Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues at the back side of the throat temporarily collapse, causing breathing stops for several seconds and waking a person up. OSA seriously interferes with one's sleep and leaves a person exhausted during the following day. Individuals may not even remember waking up few times within one hour. The major symptom of a condition is loud snoring.

The new research from Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, studied 81 overweight men and women with mild obstructive sleep apnea between October 2004 and December 2006. All the study participants, who were aged between 18 and 65 years, were divided into 2 groups: the intervention group with 89 per cent of the obese participants, and the control group with 60 per cent of the participants with normal weight.

The first group was assigned to a very low calorie diet (600 to 800 calories per day) for three months. They also had monthly sessions with a nutritionist for a period of one year, given regular counseling and advice on losing weight and physical activity. The participants of the control group were simply given advice and information on a healthy lifestyle in general.

The results revealed that people who were on a diet lost on average 23 pounds (around 10.7 kilograms) over a yearly course, and the more weight was being lost, they more likely the patients were to see their sleep apnea to disappear.

Dr. Henri P.I. Tuomilehto from the department of otorhinolaryngology at the Kuopio University Hospital, and a lead researcher of the study, said: "A very low calorie diet combined with active lifestyle counseling resulting in marked weight reduction is a feasible and effective treatment for the majority of patients with mild obstructive sleep disorder. The greater the change in body weight or waist circumference, the greater was the improvement in their sleep disorder."

Of those who managed to lose more than 33 pounds, 88 per cent had their OSA cured by the end of the study. The numbers were 62 per cent among individuals who lost between 11 and 33 pounds, as were 38 per cent among those who lost between zero and 11 pounds, wrote Dr. Tuomilehto.

In addition, the benefits of losing weight went as far as improving cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin levels to such extent in the patients, that some of them were even able to throw away their medication. They also reduced snoring and started having a better quality of life, as well as their partners.

Dr. Tuomilehto noted that although sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea have always been suggested to lose weight, there had been very little evidence until this time in the effectiveness of such recommendation. Giving his advice to patients with this kind of sleeping disorder, he concluded: "This appears to be a fairly straightforward relationship, and while we would not necessarily recommend the severe caloric restriction used in our study to every patient, one of the first treatment for a sleep disorder that should be considered in the overweight patient is clearly weight loss."

The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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