Bloomington, Ind. (PRWEB) December 25, 2008
Indulging in high-calorie foods during the holidays resulting in weight gain, especially around the neck, may lead to aggravating, or developing, sleep apnea, according to Dr. David Lawler, a Diplomat of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine.
Many Americans put on pounds during November and December, leading not only to new year's resolutions, but possibly significant impairment of their air passages during sleep, says Lawler of http://www.thecenterforsoundsleep.com.
With the exception of certain flat-faced dogs, such as bulldogs, humans are the only mammals that suffer from sleep apnea, a common, but dangerous condition where the upper airway in the throat closes off during sleep. Just like bulldogs, certain people have anatomical irregularities in the skull that predispose them to sleep apnea.
"The percentages of people with anatomical irregularities pale in comparison to the number suffering from sleep apnea due to weight gain," Lawler said. "Fatty deposits accumulate in the neck as well as throughout the body. Any increase in neck size due to fat formation encroaches on the upper airway causing the airway to narrow."
Air rushing through this narrowed airway space causes the loose, flabby tissue to vibrate. The snoring sound that results can be highly annoying to a bed partner, and cause the snorer to be the brunt of humorous jokes. However, this sound can be the sound of someone literally fighting for his or her life.
Studies show that one in five adults literally suck their upper airway shut and stop breathing from five to more than 100 times per hour for up to 60 seconds. People who have obstructed breathing during sleep, in its severest form, are three times more likely to die when compared to people with normal nighttime breathing.
"It's pretty startling to see what five or 10 pounds can do to someone when it comes to developing or aggravating sleep apnea," Lawler said. "It may be that delicate threshold where that extra weight adds significant complications to someone's sleep."
To learn more about Dr. Lawler's findings and his ongoing work in dental sleep medicine, visit his Web site at http://www.thecenterforsoundsleep.com.