Scientists at the Lynn Health Science Research Institute in Oklahoma City are recruiting volunteers for the study of obesity and obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes potentially life-threatening pauses in breathing while sleeping, The Oklahoman reported Tuesday.
"Many people think they just sleep badly and wake up feeling terrible the next day," said Kelly Shepherd, a research fellow from Australia, and one of the researchers working in the sleep disorders division at the nonprofit Lynn Health Science Research Institute. "Many don't know why."
Obesity has been found to be the main cause of sleep apnea, mostly because obese people have larger tonsils and tongues, which interfere with air flow during sleep.
Seventy percent of sleep apnea patients are obese, researchers say.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea can stop breathing from five to 130 times per hour, Shepherd says. They are at risk for heart attacks, car wrecks, depression and lost work productivity caused by daytime sleepiness, she said.
"It's incredibly underdiagnosed," Shepherd says.
Many sleep apnea sufferers have reflux problems, complicating their situation, she says.