One of the most common causes of poor sleep is apnea – and for many people who suffer from this chronic condition, there's a simple answer.
Lose some weight.
A new study finds that obese people who drop even a few of those extra pounds can improve their sleep – in some cases dramatically.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, used data on 264 obese patients who suffered from sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes. Some of these patients were put on diets, while others went through counseling.
As the dieters lost weight, their apnea improved. Twice as many dieters were able to move to a less serious form of apnea (from, say, severe to moderate or moderate to mild), while 14 percent of them managed to get completely cured.
Most of the non-dieters actually suffered from worsening apnea.
The key here is the amount of weight – it didn't take much for the benefits to kick in, just a 10 percent drop in weight resulted in better sleep.
Now, if you're obese, you should probably lose more weight than that. After all, your goal shouldn't just be better sleep, but better health and a better life. But it's a fine start – and the immediate problem of apnea is a pretty good reason to take care of this.
Some of you may be thinking this doesn't apply to you. But don't be so quick to dismiss it. Many people who have sleep apnea never know it. Unless your partner notices you gasping for breath in the night and tells you about it, how would you?
Some 18 million Americans are believed to have this condition, and in severe cases patients end up sleeping with a device to supply oxygen during the night. The condition also makes you more likely to die from any number of causes, and has been linked to heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and daytime sleepiness.
The study's author, Gary Foster, suggests controlling your portions by eating prepackaged frozen meals aimed at dieters, and that's just about the worst advice I can think of.
An endless line of overpriced food high in sodium and carbs and low in taste is not a long-term recipe for dieting success – and it's the reason so many diets fail.
Instead, find a good plan that you can stick to. Low-carb diets allow a great variety of foods with little to no calorie counting or portion control. Instead, you can eat delicious and healthy animal fats, all the veggies you want, and watch the pounds come off.
Not only is it a great diet to lose that 10 percent needed for better sleep, but it's a great lifestyle to keep the weight off for good – and live better overall.