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Need to Get More Exercise? Treat the Sleep Issue First.


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When you have obstructive sleep apnea, you get used to everyone telling you to exercise.  Reducing body fat can improve OSA.  OSA causes cardiovascular problems – so you need to exercise. Are you prediabetic because OSA is messing with your hormones and causing insulin resistance? Well, the answer is to exercise more!

The problem is that when you're not sleeping well, you don't have the energy, will-power, or focus to exercise. So you're caught in a feedback loop. Everyone says you need to exercise to feel better, but you can't exercise until you feel better.

A new study from scientists in Australia followed people who had been diagnosed with OSA.  In a study of patients with both OSA and heart disease, CPAP compliance resulted in more physical activity compared to people who didn’t treat their OSA.  Once patients were getting enough good, healing sleep, they were able to follow through on their physicians’ recommendations for more exercise.

Since exercise is important for cardiovascular health, better sleep led to better heart health and, ultimately, better lives.

Exercise and cardiovascular health is yet another area where the airway comes first.  Until someone has an open airway during sleep, they can't improve their heart health.  Opening the airway allows uninterrupted sleep.  Sleeping adjusts hormone and energy levels so that the patient finally can follow through on exercise plans.

So often, people fear going to the doctor because they know they'll just be scolded for a lack of diet and exercise. But when our patients aren't following that advice, it's not because they don't know that eating healthy foods and exercising will make them feel better. It's because there's some roadblock keeping them from doing those things, and part of our job is to find out what that roadblock is and how to remove it for them.

When the roadblock is sleep-disordered breathing, it's essential that these patients get seen, screened, and treated by someone who understands sleep medicine.   If you're too tired, unfocused, and mentally exhausted to exercise, talk to your dentist or doctor about a sleep screening or sleep study.  There's a good chance that physical problems like sleep-disordered breathing are contributing to both your cardiovascular symptoms and your inability to make lifestyle changes to treat them.