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Sat, April 20

Even modest weight loss can have positive effect on sleep apnea

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

How beneficial is weight loss for most overweight people suffering from OSA?

A: Weight loss can be very beneficial. What’s more, in some instances it can eliminate sleep apnea. Examples would be massive weight loss, such as bariatric surgery, can eliminate sleep apnea in 60 percent of patients. Even a modest weight loss in patients with mild sleep apnea can influence a significant change in sleep apnea. Finally, weight loss can result in a decrease in the level of pressure required to keep the airway patent, which may be more comfortable.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

What tips or advice would you give to help people stick with a diet for medical reasons?

A: Watch your calorie intake closely. Avoid foods with a high glycemic index. These foods raise the blood sugar rapidly. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Monitor the amount of calories of added sugar content in what you eat. Women should get no more than 100 calories or about six teaspoons per day and men no more than 150 calories or nine teaspoons per day. Finally, avoid all foods with high fructose corn syrup. Fructose does not suppress the areas of the brain that control appetite. Most importantly, exercise regularly.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My wife has MS and snores. She is always fatigued and sleepy and her memory is deteriorating. Her doctor says it is the MS but she never mentions her snoring to him. Could something like sleep apnea be contributing to her problem?

A: Great question. Actually, several recent studies have addressed this question. First, sleep apnea is very common in MS, with as many as one-third of patients having it. In addition, when sleep apnea is present and untreated in MS, a recent study published in the journal Sleep demonstrated diminished memory and attention as well as increased fatigue. I would recommend your wife discuss her snoring with her neurologist or primary care provider.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is it true that insufficient sleep can contribute to health problems such as hypertension and diabetes? My husband cannot sleep for more than five hours per night and he is becoming overweight. Recent tests showed him to be prediabetic.

A: The answer is yes. Insufficient sleep, usually judged less than six hours, has been associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. This is due in part to overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA (hypothalamic pituitary access) resulting in the over-production of cortisol and other stress hormones as well as the overproduction of ghrelin, an appetite-enhancing hormone. We find most people do best with at least 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine specialist, will answer readers’ questions by incorporating them in future columns. Contact him through the form at or via mail at the Sleep Disorders Center of Pres-cott Valley, 3259 N. Windsong Drive, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314.


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