Obesity & Sleep: Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS)
In a way, your body goes on “auto-pilot” while you sleep. Your brain regulates automatic functions for you, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Although sleep is a complex process that is not fully understood, it is known that a good night’s sleep is important for optimal health and functioning.
OHS is not the same thing as sleep apnea, although many people with OHS have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which people stop breathing numerous times when they sleep, causing awakening and gasping for air. With OHS alone, breathing does not stop, but it is inefficient, resulting in poor oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.
An arterial blood gas test is used to check the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood. A high level of carbon dioxide in the blood while a person is awake indicates OHS and differentiates it from sleep apnea. Pulmonary function tests are used to evaluate the efficiency of your lungs. Such tests usually involve breathing into a device while measurements are taken.
You may be referred to a sleep medicine doctor for a sleep study. A sleep study is helpful for diagnosing OHS, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders. A sleep study is used to take measurements of basic body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels, while you sleep. A sleep study may be conducted at a sleep clinic or in some cases, it may be conducted at your home.
Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can be a long-term solution and actually eliminate OHS. You should ask your doctor about a safe weight loss plan for you. Your doctor may refer you to a nutritionist, exercise specialist, or support group for more information and emotional support. Weight loss surgery may also be an option for some patients.
Am I at RiskPeople that are very obese are at risk for OHS. Generally, adults with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 are obese. The BMI is used to estimate what percentage of your body consists of fat. Typically, people that are 100 pounds overweight are categorized as morbidly obese.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.