Millions of Africans snore at night, some mild, others very loud, and a newly published study in the United States shows their tongues may be too fat.
The new study published January 10, 2020, in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine shows that fatty tongues seem to worsen the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Generally, overweight and obese people may make up as much as 70% of those with OSA, and weight loss reliably eases the symptoms of the disorder and sometimes resolves the problem altogether, according to a 2006 study.
However, researchers now think most of this improvement can be attributed specifically to a reduction in tongue fat, not the other parts of the body.
“No one really understands the relationship of obesity to sleep apnea,” and no one knows much about tongue fat, in general, said Dr. Richard Schwab, senior author of the new study and chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
A 2007 study found that people with higher body mass indices (BMIs) accumulate a higher percentage of fat in their tongues than people with lower BMIs.
According to the new stud, the fat mostly accumulates toward the back of the tongue, which may raise the likelihood that the squishy tissue will block the throat during sleep.
“Yes, it seems obvious, but no one looked at this before,” Schwab told Live Science.
According to Stanford Health Care, during an OSA episode, the soft tissues of the throat collapse and partially or completely block the flow of oxygen through the body’s upper airways, causing the person to stop breathing periodically, gasp for air, snore loudly and wake from their sleep.