This issue of weight gain is particularly interesting because obesity is one of the factors that can also lead to the onset of OSA. Because excess weight can trigger sleep apnea, a physician often prescribes diet and exercise to the OSA patient; however, the condition itself restricts that patient's ability to lowlight. A 2010 study of 35,000 employees of a Japanese electric power company showed that those who slept five hours or less per night were twice as likely to gain weight as those who slept seven to eight hours.
Case Western Reserve University in the United States conducted a 16-year study of the relationship between sleep deprivation and weight gain. Published in 2006, the results showed that over the course of the research, women who slept less than five hours a night were 32 percent more likely than those who slept seven or more hours to gain 33 pounds or more. So, which do you treat first? It is a chicken-and-egg quandary!
Sleep and weight gain
Several factors connect weight gain with lack of quality sleep. The level of leptin, the protein that regulates appetite, is reduced when sleep is lacking, while ghrelin, the protein that stimulates appetite, increases. As a result, an individual who does not get sufficient sleep has an increased appetite. His body triggers the hunger sensation, so he eats more, which leads to weight gain.
The fatigue that results from disrupted sleep is another contributor to weight gain in OSA sufferers. Without the energy to exercise or even prepare healthier foods, these individuals have difficulty taking the necessary steps to lose the weight needed to get relief from their sleep disorder. In addition, some people misread their exhaustion as the result of low blood sugar and literally feed the symptom, which compounds the weight problem. While sleep apnea is most common in men over the age of 40 (particularly those who are overweight or obese), postmenopausal women are also at high risk of sleep apnea and the accompanying weight gain. A study of 53 women ranging in age between 24 and 72 showed that women with the lowest amounts of progesterone and astradiol experienced the most severe sleep disorders.
€The hypothalamus is the center for nervous system regulation of hormonal production, and because sleep is basically regulated by the hypothalamus, which also regulates feeding desires, thirst, body temperature - or metabolism in general - it has the greatest demand for oxygen and glucose and fuel in general,€ explains neurology specialist Gail Henry, DC, DABCN, DACNB.
The chiropractic solution to sleep apnea
Chiropractic has been proven to effectively treat OSA patients. Treating the subluxations in the thoracicand upper cervical spine areas increase oxygen capacity and nerve function. Gentle joint mobilization and adjustments enhance the function of chest muscles and increases blood flow. Stretching and strengthening exercises for the neck also help to improve oxygen flow.
It's also important for the OSA patient to work with a nutritionist while treating the physical challenges of sleep apnea. While resolving the problems that arise from OSA can boost weight loss, the best avenue for getting maximum results comes from a healthier diet and more exercise. As the patient's apnea improves, energy increases and the hormones that trigger appetite become more controlled. By simultaneously managing both sides of the weight, equation, - apnea and diet/exercise - patients will gain vitality and renewed vigor.
About the Authors
Michelle Thomas is an accredited Nutritionist who recently completed over five years with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, a world leader in biomedical research. She joined Chirosports in Coogee in 2011. With particular interest in detoxification, weight loss, pre-conception care, and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, Michelle keeps up to date with current research, and uses the latest screening tools to bring bodies, back into balance. Mike Schlamp completed his Chiropractic Masters Degree in Sydney at Macquarie University. He has since been invited back to teach anatomy at both Macquarie University and the Macquarie University Hospital. Mike currently plays national level ice hockey in Australia after many years of top-level competition back in Canada. His special interests now lie in applied anatomy and the rehabilitation aspects of Chiropractic. Mike has also done extra studies in musculoskeletal acupuncture, rehabilitation, muscle releases and sports chiropractic. He joined Chirosports Coogee in 2010.
 Netzer, N.C., Eliasson, A.H., Strohl, K.P., €Women with sleep apnea have lower levels of hormones,€
Sleep Breath. 2003 Mar 7(1): 25-9.
 "What's new about sleep?". Journal of the American Chiropractic Association, Sep 2001.