Treating Sleep Apnea: The Weight Loss Solution

Treating Sleep Apnea: The Weight Loss Solution

Sleep apnea is among the most common sleep disorders many Australians experience. And while many people are familiar with the disorder, most people aren’t aware of the relationship between weight and the likelihood of sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common type of sleep apnea, is way higher in obese and overweight individuals. This is why sleep specialists usually prescribe weight loss as one of the best ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea. So, how does losing weight help individuals manage sleep apnea solutions?

Well, that’s a fairly complicated question that we’re more than happy to answer in full detail in this article. Below, we’ll get into what sleep apnea is and why weight is a major factor in treating and diagnosing sleep apnea. Let’s get into it!

Central Sleep Apnea and Obstructive Sleep Apnea – What’s the Difference?

Before anything else, we need to differentiate central sleep apnea from obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. Basically, OSA is a mechanical issue. Those with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome have throat muscles that relax and collapse too much during their sleep. This blocks the airway and prevents them from breathing.

On the flip side, central sleep apnea (CSA) deals with the central nervous system. Those with CSA typically have an underlying illness, and their brains don’t send the appropriate signals to their body in their sleep. This is why those with CSA stop breathing in the middle of the night.

How Weight Affects Sleep Apnea

Various underlying health conditions may cause sleep apnea. However, those that suffer from mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea are commonly overweight and obese individuals. But why does this happen?

Well, weight and sleep apnea have a very strong relationship. And while sleep apnea depends on various underlying conditions and factors, today, we’re focusing on the relationship between weight and sleep apnea.

Excess Weight Leads to an Increased Risk of Sleep Apnea

The main reason that overweight and obese individuals are most likely to have sleep apnea is because of a build-up of pharyngeal fat, which is stored in the neck. When the muscles in your airway are relaxed, the pharyngeal fat can block the airways. In most cases, this causes sleep apnea snores, which are known to be fairly loud and constant.

But in severe cases, it can cause an individual to stop breathing and oxygen levels in their body to drop. This is why those with mild sleep apnea and moderate sleep apnea may wake up in the middle of the night, greatly disrupting their sleep patterns.

While mild to severe sleep apnea is a fairly common sleep disorder, it can have a major effect on a person’s quality of life. This is why if you’re having a hard time sleeping, you may want to consult a sleep specialist to conduct a sleep study and determine the severity of your condition and the best way to manage the symptoms.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Causes Weight Gain

While most people with sleep apnea understand the common symptoms like loud snoring, trouble concentrating, and lack of a full night’s sleep, not many people know that sleep apnea can actually lead to weight gain.

Those with inconsistent or decreased sleep have excess ghrelin and decreased leptin. Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone, while ghrelin is an appetite-decreasing hormone. So, when sleep apnea occurs and affects a person’s healthy sleep schedule, the individual might have a stronger appetite than usual, causing them to eat more.

Additionally, daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea. When you don’t get proper sleep at night or have trouble falling asleep on time, your body won’t have enough energy to metabolize food throughout the day. This means more calories are converted into fat, which can increase a person’s weight.

What Are the Best Ways to Treat Sleep Apnea?

Since sleep apnea isn’t a curable condition, those that suffer from it can benefit from managing the symptoms instead. If your or your bed partner suffer from sleep apnea, here are some of the common treatment methods to manage the symptoms.

Weight Loss for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

One of the most-recommend ways to treat and prevent sleep apnea is weight loss. As mentioned earlier, sleep apnea and weight have a strong relationship. So, if you suffer from sleep apnea because you’re overweight, shedding some of those extra pounds and maintaining a healthy weight could do wonders for your condition.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machines

For mild and moderate cases of sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP machine is used. These machines maintain a positive airway pressure while you sleep and serve as a breathing device to keep your airways open. That way, you experience fewer breathing pauses and get much better restorative sleep.

Oral Appliances

When you visit a doctor, and they diagnose sleep apnea but note that it’s mild to moderate, you can opt for an oral appliance instead of an air pressure machine. These could be as simple as a mouthguard to help keep your upper airway open and allow better sleep at night.

Where to Go If You Think You Have Sleep Apnea

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, you need to see a sleep medicine specialist. These specialists can conduct an overnight sleep study on your body in a sleep laboratory to ensure that the conditions are as controlled as possible. From there, they can determine when your breathing repeatedly stops and the severity of your condition.

Additionally, they may ask about your family history and medicine used to determine the risk factors and whether you are more likely to have sleep apnea. Once they determine the type and severity of your sleep apnea, the specialist will recommend various treatment options for you. That way, it will be much easier to fall asleep while assuring that your blood oxygen levels remain stable at night.


Sleep apnea can be a complex condition, and many factors put you at risk of it. However, one of the major factors that contribute to sleep apnea is your weight. Overweight and obese individuals are more likely to experience sleep apnea, which is why doctors recommend maintaining the right weight for your body to reduce, prevent and manage the condition.

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