If you know someone whose snoring could rouse an entire neighborhood or you’re the culprit of loud snoring when you sleep, you or your bed partner may be pretty frustrated and wonder why it’s happening. While some people have legitimate health issues that cause them to snore, one expert believes that for everyone else, it all comes down to having a fat tongue.
Wait, can tongues be fat? Well, sort of. When we talk about fatness of something like a tongue, we’re not talking about the same thing as, say, belly or thigh fat. After all, while many people can control their body weight if they so desire (and if they don’t, that’s cool too!), no one is really in charge of the size of their tongue. If you have a fat one, it’s not your fault! Well, mostly not.
Fat tongues cause sleep apnea. According to research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, you have a fat tongue if you can’t see your entire uvula, which is that dangly ball at the back of your throat when you stick your tongue all the way out and open your mouth. And not only that, but if your tongue is fat, you’re more likely to develop sleep apnea. Yikes!
Sleep apnea is a very dangerous condition. Sleep apnea makes sufferers stop breathing overnight, which as you can imagine can be really dangerous and potentially fatal. Being overweight makes you much more likely to suffer from the condition (along with being male, over 40, and having a large neck), and being overweight also makes you more likely to have a fat tongue.
Losing weight could help you lose tongue weight too. The research discovered that when people lose weight in their bodies, their tongues follow suit. More encouragingly, losing 1% of your tongue weight leads to 1% reduced chance of developing sleep apnea, which is a major difference if you think about it.
It sounds crazy but it’s true. “Most clinicians, and even experts in the sleep apnoea world, have not typically focused on fat in the tongue for treating sleep apnoea,” said Dr. Richard Schwab, the chief of Sleep Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Now that we know tongue fat is a risk factor and that sleep apnoea improves when tongue fat is reduced, we have established a unique therapeutic target that we’ve never had before.” Good to know!
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