Table of contents
How Excess Weight Affects Sleep ApneaStudies on Weight Loss and Sleep ApneaWeight Loss Strategies for Sleep Apnea PatientsTips for Managing Sleep Apnea through Weight Loss2. Adjust Your CPAP Settings as You Lose Weight:When to Consider CPAP Therapy Alongside Weight LossWhen Weight Loss Isn't EnoughTaking the First Steps Towards a Healthier Sleep
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Can Weight Loss Reverse Sleep Apnea?

Apr 18, 2024
· 9 mins read

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

But what causes sleep apnea?

According to WebMD , the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is excess weight and obesity. Excess weight often causes fatty deposits to stick around the neck, further constricting the airway.

Without proper treatment, sleep apnea can have serious consequences. It increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even diabetes. This is why it's important to understand the link between sleep apnea and weight loss .

Read this post to gain deeper insights into the impact of weight loss in treating sleep apnea and achieving healthier night rests. 

How Excess Weight Affects Sleep Apnea

Imagine your airway as a flexible tube where air passes in and out of your lungs. During sleep, the muscles supporting this tube relax without any issues for most people.

However, people with excess weight tend to have a layer of fatty tissue deposited around their necks. This tissue acts like a girdle, squeezing the airway and making it more likely to collapse during sleep. This squeezing and narrowing triggers the breathing pauses and gasping for air in sleep apnea patients.

Aside from the increased neck circumference caused by obesity,  abdominal fat  also contributes to sleep apnea, compressing the chest wall, reducing lung volume and making breathing harder when lying down.

In statistical studies, a JTD article says that 41% of patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 28 have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

The article also mentioned that OSA is more prevalent (up to 78%) in patients referred for bariatric surgery.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine also revealed in a study that:

- 26% of overweight men or women have mild apnea.

- Among obese individuals, 34% of women and 22% of men have mild apnea.

- Similarly, about 60–90% of adult patients with obstructive sleep apnea have a BMI of 25 kg/m 2 or more.

Meanwhile, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) revealed in a study that CPAP treatment combined with dietary changes can aid weight loss in specific OSA patients.

Studies on Weight Loss and Sleep Apnea

Multiple studies have shown a clear link between weight loss and significant improvement in the severity of sleep apnea.

A critical medical journal shows an analysis of a 5-year observational follow-up trial study on weight loss and sleep apnea. The journal reveals that a modest weight loss of 5% improved sleep apnea symptoms. The benefits become even more pronounced when the weight reduction increases to 10%.

There’s also an NIH study confirming that dietary weight loss programs effectively reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. However, it recommends that weight reduction programs be considered adjunct rather than curative therapy.

Another NIH study also gives vital information based on a ten-year observation of the effects of weight loss on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) severity. The study concluded that participants with OSA and type 2 diabetes mellitus receiving intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) for weight loss had reduced OSA severity at 10 years. 

Weight Loss Strategies for Sleep Apnea Patients

Losing weight can be challenging at first. But remember, you are not alone!

About 52% of the world's adults are also trying to lose weight to gain a healthier lifestyle.

What’s even more encouraging is that every small change in your weight loss journey can significantly impact your sleep apnea and overall well-being.

So, let’s explore some practical strategies you can incorporate into your daily sleep and weight loss routine:

Kickstart Your Metabolism

Metabolism is like the body's engine, helping it stay alive and functioning. It's a set of internal chemical reactions that convert the energy in food into usable form, turn food into nutritional building blocks, and eliminate waste products.

This is why weight loss occurs when your diet has a calorie deficit and exercise more.

Research has also shown that obesity in the USA is linked to obstructive sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome.

So, the importance of keeping your body's metabolism in check cannot be over-emphasized.

To keep your metabolism humming and shed some weight, aim for smaller, more frequent meals coupled with regular exercise. 

Adjust Your Diet for Long-Term Success

Think long-term when adjusting your diet and exercise to manage obstructive sleep apnea and hit your weight loss target.

Ensure that your diet changes are sustainable and manageable. Remember, the weight loss journey is like a marathon and not a sprint.

Consult with your doctor or dietitian for personalized guidance. But if you need some general dietary adjustment tips, check out the ones below:

Prioritize whole foods: Stick to a gluten-free diet by filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods keep you fuller for longer, reducing cravings and unhealthy snacking.

Limit processed foods: Processed foods are often loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium. Opt for fresh or minimally processed options whenever possible.

Mindful portion control: Use smaller plates and bowls to avoid overeating. Pay attention to your hunger cues, and stop eating when you're comfortably full, not stuffed.

Embrace Daily Movement

Exercise doesn’t have to be a difficult chore! Embrace the simple activities you enjoy: brisk walking, swimming, dancing, or cycling.

Start slowly and gradually increase your workouts' intensity and duration as your fitness improves.

You can also take things a step further by getting a personal trainer to guide you on daily workouts that help weight loss.

Have a Sleep Routine

Maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is crucial for weight management. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it.

A regular sleep schedule will ensure you get the right amount of sleep your body needs. You can also boost your sleep quality by making your bedroom quieter, darker, and calmer.

By getting enough quality sleep, your body will regulate the hormones that control hunger and fullness, aiding your weight loss efforts. 

Build Healthy Habits

It can be challenging to change all your existing habits at once. That’s why we always encourage focusing on small, sustainable changes.

Rather than focusing on drastic restrictions, aim to build healthy habits you can stick with in the long term. This could mean reducing chocolate intake and swapping sugary drinks for water to curb the effects of sugar on your sleep and appetite.

Another habit you can develop is taking the stairs instead of the elevator and preparing healthy snacks ahead of time to avoid unhealthy temptations. 

Seek Support

Don’t be timid or afraid to ask for help at any point in your weight loss journey.

You can join a weight loss support group or hire a compassionate personal trainer who would help you stay motivated and accountable.

In some cases, you can also turn to your doctor for valuable resources, especially when it comes to monitoring your progress.

Embrace Tech Tools for Your Journey

Technology can be a powerful ally on your weight loss journey if you use it well.

Use mobile apps to track your daily physical activities and calorie intake. You can also wear smartwatches to help monitor your sleep patterns and fitness goals.

If you can afford a treadmill and other gym equipment, they can help you gain more privacy while working out at home. 

Tips for Managing Sleep Apnea through Weight Loss

Living with sleep apnea while on a weight loss journey can be challenging. But the good news is that every progress you make in losing weight helps improve your sleep apnea.

Here are some specific tips for managing sleep apnea while working on your weight management plan. 

1. Leverage CPAP Therapy for Weight Loss Success:

CPAP therapy effectively treats sleep apnea by keeping your airway open throughout the night. This leads to deeper, more restorative sleep. When you're well-rested, you have more energy for physical activity, a key component of weight loss.

Remember, sleep deprivation can disrupt hormones that regulate hunger and fullness. As CPAP therapy improves your sleep quality, your hormones get regulated, and your cravings for unhealthy snacks get reduced.

Meanwhile, you can also engage in simple exercises that help reduce sleep apnea . Some of these include singing at the top of your voice, exercising your tongue, and stretching your soft palate. 

2. Adjust Your CPAP Settings as You Lose Weight:

Your airway anatomy may change as you lose weight, particularly around your neck. This can necessitate adjusting the pressure settings on your CPAP machine.

However, we strongly advise that you schedule regular consultations with your doctor to monitor the severity of your sleep apnea and CPAP pressure settings.

Please don’t adjust your CPAP pressure settings on your own. Always consult your doctor to ensure optimal therapy and avoid potential safety risks.

3. Other Helpful Tips:

  • Monitor your weight loss, sleep quality, and CPAP usage data. This will help you stay motivated and allow your doctor to adjust your treatment plan as needed.

  • Focus on how much better you feel with improved sleep and increased energy levels, not just the numbers on the scale.

  • Connect with others who understand the challenges of sleep apnea and can be a great source of motivation and encouragement.

When to Consider CPAP Therapy Alongside Weight Loss

Managing sleep apnea as an overweight involves a two-pronged approach: weight loss and CPAP therapy.

While weight loss can significantly improve your sleep apnea in the long term, CPAP machines provide immediate relief from the current disruptive symptoms you are experiencing.

Think of CPAP therapy and weight loss as teammates working together to optimize your sleep health. CPAP helps keep your airway open throughout the night, ensuring quality sleep. This, in turn, provides you with the energy you need to stick to your weight loss goals.

On the other hand, weight loss can reduce the severity of sleep apnea, potentially leading to adjustments in your CPAP settings or even eliminating the need for it in some cases.

However, let your healthcare provider judge when and how to incorporate CPAP therapy into your sleep apnea management plan. They can assess the severity of your sleep apnea through a home sleep study diagnosis and determine if CPAP is necessary alongside your weight loss efforts.

Remember that an affordable device like the WatchPAT™ ONE is an excellent choice for conducting accurate home sleep tests without spending thousands of dollars. 

When Weight Loss Isn't Enough

Sometimes, you can be diligently following your weight loss plan but still experience sleep apnea symptoms. When such happens, don’t be discouraged!

Several other strategies and treatments can still help you achieve restful sleep and improve your overall health. See examples below.

Dental Appliances: They are effective oral or dental appliances specially made for sleep apnea patients. These custom-made mouthpieces gently hold your jaw forward, widening the airway and reducing sleep apnea events.

Sleep Positional Therapy: Certain sleeping positions (like sleeping on your side) can benefit those with sleep apnea more. Your doctor can advise you on the optimal sleeping position for managing your condition.

Surgical Intervention: In some severe cases, surgery may be an option to address anatomical abnormalities contributing to permanent sleep apnea.

Taking the First Steps Towards a Healthier Sleep

All we’ve discussed above should help you see the powerful connection between weight loss and sleep apnea. Remember that the slightest changes in your diet and exercise routine can significantly impact your sleep quality and overall health.

Meanwhile, CPAP therapy is a healthy method you can use to get immediate relief from sleep apnea symptoms as you continue your weight loss journey.

If you feel lost or confused, consult your doctor to monitor your weight loss progress and adjust your CPAP treatment plan as needed.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to navigate this journey alone.

Here at Sleeplay , we understand the challenges of sleep apnea and are committed to helping you achieve healthier sleep. That’s why we provide educational content and offer a wide range of high-quality CPAP machines and accessories to ensure optimal therapy.

Ready to take a step towards better health and sleep?

Explore our resources and support options for managing sleep apnea, and see how changes in lifestyle, coupled with the right CPAP therapy, can transform your sleep.

Connect with our specialists for personalized advice and discover the tools you need for a restful night's sleep. 

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