The Weight Connection
A lack of sleep can make you gain weight. Leptin and ghrelin are among the various hormones that are regulated in sleep. Under normal conditions, leptin hormone tells the body when it’s full, therefore regulating the appetite. Ghrelin tells the brain when you need to eat. Ghrelin levels decrease during sleep. As a result of sleep deprivation your body thinks you still need sleep, so you are releasing ghrelin. As a result of your sleep deprivation, you eat more since your body’s circadian rhythm is off. This causes your leptin levels to decrease while ghrelin levels stay high. In a properly functioning body, the two hormones are released on and off to regulate normal feelings of hunger. However, in a sleep-deprived individual, ghrelin and leptin levels can be altered. Ghrelin levels will go up and leptin levels go down. The result is increased appetite with larger consumption.
In addition, the stress hormone cortisol increases. When cortisol increases, it can contribute to insulin resistance. Weight gain and insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. A common thought is to try to lose weight to reduce apnea. This may be counterproductive if you are unable to regulate your hormones. If you have sleep apnea and are overweight, it may be prudent to utilize a CPAP or a dental sleep appliance to improve sleep quality to regulate the hormones, making it more feasible to lose weight and reduce the apnea. There may also be other factors at play, including nasal obstruction, tongue-tie, chronic allergies, etc. The weight is part of the puzzle. Our job as airway-focused dentists is to try to find all the different pieces and put them together.