I had mild sleep apnea before my gastric bypass weight loss surgery. Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder characterized by interrupted breathing while asleep. Although I have no knowledge of how many times I may have stopped breathing during the night, persons affected by sleep apnea can stop breathing hundreds of time during the night. This action can compromise the supply of oxygen to the brain.
There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked, usually by a collapse of soft tissue at the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send signals to the muscles to breath.
Sleep apnea can cause depression, high blood pressure, and stroke and can affect any person of any age. Causes include having a family history of sleep apnea, nasal obstructions, being over forty years old, and obesity. Of course, I was obese.
Individuals who have sleep apnea complain of fatigue, headaches in the morning, and moodiness. They fall asleep easily and could doze off under any conditions from watching television to driving a car.
The disorder is often first noticed by spouses or partners who are disturbed by the loud snoring that accompanies the disorder. Just ask my husband about that... oy veh!
Sleep Apnea and Obesity
Obstructive sleep apnea is most common among those who are obese. The airway becomes obstructed by large tonsils or an enlarged tongue and press against the airway.
To complicate the problem, obesity not only promotes sleep apnea but sleep apnea causes people to eat more due to sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea seems to disturb hormones that control eating habits.
Bariatric Surgery and Sleep Apnea
Many people who have bariatric surgery show improvement in sleep apnea although it is difficult to determine the extent of the improvement.
The severity of the sleep apnea plays an important role in the resolution of the disorder after gastric bypass surgery. A study published in the August, 2008 issue of Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine determined that while weight loss surgery can improve sleep apnea, it does not necessarily resolve it.
While the required pressures for continuous positive airway pressure (a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep airways open) were decreased on average, only four percent of patients reported resolution of sleep apnea.
I have been fortunate. My sleep apnea -- and many other obesity-related illnesses were resolved after my gastric bypass surgery. Perhaps the cards were stacked in my favor since I had only mild sleep apnea. I never recieved continuous positive airway pressure.
Although sleep apnea is one of the criteria used to determine the medical necessity for weight loss surgery, only a small portion of bariatric patients report resolution of sleep apnea even after impressive weight loss.
Many doctors and surgeons are reluctant to qualify weight loss surgery as a cure for sleep apnea because of concerns about inappropriately discontinuing continuous positive airway pressure therapy.