Obesity and Snoring

How many ways do we have to say "LOSE THE WEIGHT", before you take it seriously?

Experience suggests it'll have to be a lot more times. Why? Because it took us (here at the site) years'n'years to finally start losing weight for real. Basically, we wasted most of our forties and the early part of our fifties being fat, slow, pained, hypertensive....... and yes, snoring. We spent many a night in the guest room. The only good thing to come of that is that guests will have an upgraded bed to sleep on.

Overweight causes all kinds of problems. You are probably busy ignoring a whole slate of annoyances and disabilities/debilities that have crept up as your weight crept up.

One of them is snoring.

But how does that work, exactly?

Like most things that happen (or go wrong) in the body, several things combine.

First, lets observe that only the rather old guys have skinny every-thing-else and a big paunch. The rest of us might show more of our fat around the middle, but it gets into every other part. Get fat enough, and even your fingers will be fat. Everywhere. Inside the body as well as visibly covering the outside. But on this page, we're interested in how fat contributes to / causes snoring.

Fat in the neck doesn't merely spread outward and give you extra chins and a bigger shirt size. It also pushes inward, putting pressure on the sides of your airway. Meanwhile, inside your upper throat, the tissues get fatter and softer, so they sag and flop more easily (uvula, tonsils, just any fleshy bit around the ole cake-hole).

So when you lie on your back, your tongue sags back, partly filling the airway, and the other fleshy bits sag downward to meet it. Soft flappy things, hanging in the constricted airway, make noise.

For the first few years, when your wife grumps about the noise "You're SNORing!", or pokes you in the ribs, you react by rolling onto your side, and peace is restored.

BUT things change. Even if you don't get fatter, the years of snoring - and possibly apnea(?) - cause damage in your throat, which becomes less and less able to not snore.

Now, we add to that the fact that you inevitably do (did?) get fatter. So the neck fat was also pressing in on the side-walls of your breathing tube. Making it smaller.

Now, you put the two encroachments together (extra fat pressing in, and damaged tissues sagging further into the remaining tiny hole that you try to breathe through), and even when you roll ponderously onto your side, you STILL snore. The wife is past earplugs - she's probably in the guest room (if you didn't do the honorable thing and volunteer) AND she's using the earplugs.

It's not even peaceful when it stops!

Get this: if your wife (or other partner) actually loves you, then s/he is concerned about you. If you have apnea (a common adjunct to bad snoring), then you periodically stop breathing throughout the night. You don't just pause, you are stopped by a closed air tube. You don't just lie there placidly waiting for some future opportunity to resume breathing - you struggle and strain for your life, until finally (sometimes after a minute or two of desperate struggle), you suck in a breath with a mighty and resonant snore.

So, for that minute (or more), your partner heard the silence and felt the bed shaking with your struggles, knowing that you were basically dying until you saved yourself. Over and over.

And you wonder why you don't feel rested in the morning. Do you need to wonder why she (or he - we're equal opportunity here) doesn't look any more rested?

Yes, that's doing just about what you'd expect to your blood pressure. Not only does it spike really high while you are struggling to breathe, but it retains a bit of that elevation into the following day.

Anything Else?

Oh heck, yeah. But this page is about fat and snoring, so we'll concentrate on that.

If you haven't noticed, your wife/partner has - you snore more when you go to bed extra-tired, or with alcohol in your system. Why? Well, both states (being over-tired and having had a few drinks) cause muscles to relax or lose tonus. That means there's even less underlying structure and stiffness in your throat.

Also, when you get really heavy, you are... really heavy. Even your chest. That means you work against that extra weight just to expand your chest and breathe. That makes you tired, and it oppresses you while you are asleep. More snoring.

You probably aren't fat enough to have significant fat deposits surrounding your heart... constricting its every beat... that's really extreme. But if you are into the obese range (BMI of 30 or more) then you absolutely have masses of fat inside your abdomen.

What could that have to do with snoring? Take note.

When you are slim, your abdomen contains all your viscera, all your abdominal organs: stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, spleen, gallbladder, kidneys, bladder, pancreas, some substantial blood vessels... If you've ever seen a realistic cutaway model of the abdomen, there's no wasted space. Everything is rather tightly packed into that space.

Now, add pounds, kilograms of fat. The muscular walls of the abdominal cavity can expand only so much, and they resist more as they are stretched more.

And this has what to do with snoring?

Stay with us.

OK, now breathe. Notice that your chest rises, to make room for your lungs to fill with air. But take a deep breath. Notice that the expansion doesn't stop with just the rising of the chest. The abdomen and the chest are separated from each other by a muscular sheet called the diaphragm. When you take a deep breath, the diaphragm pushes downward to give the lungs more room. It pushes down against the stomach and other organs. Your belly expands with each deep-ish breath.

If your belly is crammed with intra-abdominal fat, then there's little or no room for that downward expansion. That means:

a) your breathing is curtailed by the reduced expansion volume and

b) your breathing is resisted by the back-pressure from that stuffing.

Your belly might still expand when you breathe, but your breathing apparatus needs to push that massive corporation out of the way with each breath.

Getting tired just thinking about it? Exactly. Another reason why you go to bed extra tired... which makes you snore. Vicious cycle.

Go back to our Snoring Intro page for a handy table with links to all our other snoring-related pages.

Go directly to our weight loss section for some basic education and how-to.

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