Misconceptions About Sleep Apnea
It may be hard to believe that people who are constantly in the gym and paying attention to their bodies could have a serious health condition. But it’s more likely than you think — NFL players, who are often larger than the general population, are also at risk.
Sleep apnea, a dangerous sleep condition that’s characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, can lead to fatal health conditions. The most common form of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), affects millions of Americans and the condition results in deaths every year.
Bodybuilding and strongmen put a focus on gaining muscle to perform incredible feats and work on creating impressive builds. Though they work out all the time, OSA is, unfortunately, often a consequence of this lifestyle.
Learn how bodybuilding can contribute to OSA and what you can do about it.
The Causes of OSA
When many people think about sleep apnea, the image of an older, overweight male comes to mind. But many types of people can have OSA, of all ages — even children can have sleep apnea. Bodybuilding creates an environment in your body that’s conducive to developing sleep apnea.
Excess Weight — Even If It’s Muscle
Being overweight is one of the most influential causes of OSA. Doctors who treat sleep apnea, like dentist Dr. Charles Schumacher in Farmington, NM, often recommend dieting and exercise as part of their patients’ treatment.
But excess weight doesn’t always mean someone is obese. Weightlifters put a focus on being heavy, emphasizing muscle gains. Many weightlifters, though made of pure muscle, do weigh more than average peers of the same age.
Bodybuilding is all about pushing your body to the limit, then beyond. And weighing more than average, even if it’s all muscle, does push the limits of your body’s ability to function. In order to maintain your lifestyle, sleep apnea treatment is necessary.
Greater Neck Circumference
Another contributor to OSA is the circumference of your neck. Any excess tissue in the neck can lead to difficulty breathing during sleep — especially a heavy, muscular neck. In fact, because muscle is heavier than fat, it may be even direr.
A neck circumference that’s greater than 16 inches for women or 17 inches for men is a risk factor for sleep apnea. The excess tissue in your neck can encroach on your airway while you sleep, blocking it and waking you throughout the night.
Why Should You Care?
There are serious health conditions that you can develop as a result of untreated sleep apnea. The most common fatal consequence of OSA is a heart attack. The lack of oxygen during sleep has been found to increase the risk of heart failure by 140%.
It’s also associated with cardiovascular disease, strokes, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. With treatment for sleep apnea, all of these conditions have been found to improve.
Interrupts Your Gains
Sleep apnea can also interrupt your endocrine system, meaning you may not be able to build as much muscle as you want to. You could be building ineffectively because of this, and with treatment for sleep apnea, your workouts can yield better results.
How You Can Stay Healthy
In order to maintain your body and lifestyle, professional treatment for sleep apnea is essential. If you’re unsure you need diagnosis and treatment, one handy tool called the STOP-Bang Questionnaire can help you assess your risk.
You can also see a dentist who treats sleep apnea, like Dr. Scott Clinton in Chelsea, NY to assess your risk before seeking a diagnosis. The signs of sleep apnea are often detected by dentists because they occur in the mouth and throat.
Undergo a Sleep Study
Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed through a sleep study — even if you have all the symptoms, you’ll need to be properly diagnosed before you’re able to seek treatment. Sleep studies can be done at a sleep clinic or with an at-home test.
Your Treatment Options
CPAP Machines: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. You’ll wear a mask over your nose and mouth, and the machine pushes air into your lungs to keep your airway open while you sleep.
While CPAP works for many people, it does have its downfalls. About half of all people who are prescribed a CPAP stop using it, risking their lives due to discomfort.
Oral Appliances: Many people have difficulty tolerating their CPAP and end up ignoring it. In these cases, sleep apnea dentists like Dr. Vu Kong can provide a comfortable, effective alternative called an oral appliance.
These appliances, which look like sports mouthguards, are a veritable challenger to CPAP.
Surgery: When general sleep apnea treatments don’t work, surgery may be able to correct the structure of your neck. Doctors may choose from a variety of procedures depending on your individual case.
Protect Your Body
You’ve worked hard to create the body you want — don’t lose it all to OSA. Treatment can enable you to maintain and even enhance your lifestyle. You’ll have more energy to work on your body because you won’t lose sleep anymore.