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FOX Medical Team

Sleep problems could cause weight gain

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ATLANTA -

See if this sounds familiar: you're not sleeping well, so you're eating more and putting on weight, but because you're not sleeping well, you don't have the energy to exercise and take the weight back off.

That's what was happening to Heston Joseph.  He said that he would snore so loudly that he would almost bring the house down. But it took him years to realize why he'd sleep through the night and yet wake up feeling like he hadn't slept a wink.

When Joseph is not on the road for work, he's on his bike.

"Definitely you'll catch me suited up with my jacket, my kit in the cold, and just riding around Douglasville, man, nothing like just being out on my bike," Joseph said.

As much as the 42-year-old medical researcher loves riding, he felt so tired that it was struggle.

Every night he'd snore. Every morning, he'd wake up to breakfast, exhausted.
 
"And two minutes after I finish eating, I'm not kidding you, I'm ready to go back to bed," Joseph said. "I just slept eight hours, how is that possible!"

About a year ago, a lung doctor client noticed Heston breathing hard.
 
"He was like, ‘What are you taking for your apnea?'  I'm like, apnea?  I don't have apnea.  He's goes, 'Yeah you do,'" said Joseph.

Heston went to see Wellstar Douglasville pulmonologist Chirag Patel, who specializes in sleep disorders. One of the most common and potentially serious is sleep apnea.

More than just snoring, a person continuously stops breathing during sleep.

"If you're not getting the right quality of sleep, it doesn't matter how long you sleep. It's the quality of sleep," said Patel.
 
A sleep study showed Heston has sleep apnea, and when Dr. Patel looked in the back of his throat, "his airway was narrowed to a pinpoint," Patel said.

Patel immediately sent Heston to Wellstar ear nose and throat specialist Dr. Shalini Kansal.

"That's when she opened up and she started freaking out, like,  'Whoa!  She was like, 'these are the biggest I've ever seen.'  She said it was the biggest tonsils she'd ever seen," said Heston.

Heston also had huge adenoids caused, Kansal says, by years of tissue buildup from throat infections.

"So if me or you had somebody completely obstructions of our oralpharangeal airway right now, we would die.  But he adapted because it happened slowly to him," Kansal said.

Kansal removed Heston's tonsils and adenoids, but she says 90 percent of the time, weight is what's driving sleep apnea by putting pressure on your airways, so surgery alone isn't the answer.

"Today I saw a patient.  He's like 5'8'' and weighs 320 pounds, taking out his tonsils is not going to fix his problem," Kansal said.

Heston started eating better, and at night, he began sleeping with a C-PAP machine that keeps his airways open  by delivering a continuous flow of air into his lungs.
 
"It's one thing leads to another.  He was wearing the C-PAP better, so he started feeling better, so he started eating better.  Then he started losing weight, and then he just got more motivated," Patel said.

In the last year, Heston has lost at least 20 pounds and now when he rides, it's a breeze.
 
"Everybody was like, 'You sound so much better, you look so much better.'  Even with cycling now, when I go out there, the guys are just amazed! "OK now he's really fast!  Now he's like killing it," Heston said.

Patel says if you are not sleeping well, talk to your primary care doctor about the problem. You may need to undergo a sleep study to find out if you have sleep apnea or something else going on.

Common signs of sleep apnea, courtesy of www.webmd.com

* loud, chronic snoring
* waking with a sore or dry throat
* waking choking, or gasping
* daytime sleepiness
* morning headaches
* restless sleep, insomnia
* forgetfulness, mood changes, decreased sex drive

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