Why Your Tongue Could Be Causing Your OSA

January 10, 2021
Avatar for Kelley MingusKelley Mingus

If you have sleep apnea and are obese or overweight, you may have already been told that losing weight is a key factor in potentially reducing the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity and overweight, combined with sleep apnea can cause a host of other ailments, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease. But there is some good news about reducing your obstructive sleep apnea symptoms through weight loss.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction to the airway during sleep. This is can be from the throat closing up while the sleep apnea patient is in a reclined position, or according to a new study, it can occur when the airway becomes obstructed by the tongue – or more specifically, from what is known as a “fatty tongue,” which can occur when the patient is overweight or obese.

While there is no way to directly remove fat from the tongue (researchers say fat accumulates in the tongue much like marbling does in a steak), overall body weight loss can help reduce tongue fat and help remove the obstruction to the patient’s airway in the reclining position.

While this may not be able to reduce all the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, losing weight is a major key to helping with this pursuit. If you are obese or overweight, speak to your doctor about getting on a diet and exercise regimen that will help get you to a healthy body weight and hopefully lose some of the excess fat in your tongue.

Other solutions to preventing the symptoms of sleep apnea are using a sleep orthotic like those prescribed by Dr. Mingus. A sleep orthotic helps to position the jaw in such a way that the airway is propped open during sleep, allowing the patient to breathe easily while in the reclining position.

Sleep orthotics also have the benefit of being more comfortable and easier to clean than machines such as CPAP therapy machines, which force air into the patient’s airway via an awkward and uncomfortable mask. In fact, many people do not wear their CPAP masks because of their discomfort, making them useless.

To learn more about your options with sleep orthotics, please contact Dr. Mingus’s office today.