Apnea literally means "cessation of breath." If you have sleep apnea, your breath can become very shallow or you may even stop breathing while you are asleep. This state of not breathing can occur for 10 seconds in an hour, or in severe cases, the frequency of cessation of breath may further increase. The repeated episodes of apnea (lack of breathing) cause frequent night time awakening.
Individuals with this disorder often complain of morning headaches, constant fatigue, and moodiness, and can fall asleep almost anywhere. More seriously, they can fall asleep even while driving. Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common in obese individuals. It is believed that the airway of obese individuals get obstructed by large tonsils, an enlarged tongue and increased fat in the neck. This presses airways when the pharyngeal (throat) muscles are relaxed during sleep. A person's neck circumference is a good predictor of sleep apnea. Obese men with a neck circumference of 17 inches or greater, and women with a neck circumference of 16 inches or greater are more likely to have sleep apnea.
The worst part is that it is not only obesity that has an association with sleep apnea, but sleep apnea even results in poor sleep which increases food cravings. Lack of good quality sleep increases the chances of hormonal imbalance by increasing the level of ghrelin hormone. Ghrelin is a hormone known for its effects on appetite and disturbed levels of ghrelin hormone leads to an increased appetite which further leads to weight gain.
Individuals with sleep apnea often have elevated blood pressure, high fasting glucose, and high cholesterol. Lack of sleep triggers stress hormones which stimulate the cell’s glycogen to get converted into glucose. This suppresses the function of insulin due to which blood sugar levels shoot up leading to diabetes and heart problems, all of which can worsen with further sleep deprivation. So, it's a vicious cycle. Obesity can lead to sleep apnea, which, itself, then causes derangements of hormones that control eating habits, leading to more weight gain, worsened blood pressure, glucose intolerance, worsened apnea and the cycle goes on and on.
So, healthy eating with exercise leads to weight loss and not only helps in preventing such a vicious cycle of health problems but also helps in the cure of sleep apnea.