Sleep apnoea is a disorder that causes some individuals to experience pauses in their breathing while they are sleeping, resulting in them gasping for breath. Said pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds right up to a few minutes.
But while sleep apnoea can be alleviated with certain measures, including wearing oral appliances at bedtime, its exact cause has remained open to debate. Now, a new study has revealed that having a fatty tongue could play a part.
According to the research by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, larger, fattier tongues – which are more common among obese individuals – could be a main driver of sleep apnoea.
That’s why when overweight and obese people shed the pounds, including fat in their tongues, any sleep apnoea they’ve been experiencing also tends to improve.
“You talk, eat and breathe with your tongue - so why is fat deposited there?" said study author Dr Richard Schwab, of Perelman School of Medicine.
“It's not clear why - it could be genetic or environmental - but the less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep.”
The researchers now plan to discover which low-fat diets (if any) are particularly good at reducing fat in the tongue.