Can sleep apnea be cured with weight loss? It depends on the root cause of your obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In many cases, losing weight helps, but there are situations where it’s not enough.
The Correlation Between Sleep Apnea and Obesity
According to CDC data, about 30% of people in California are considered obese. Obstructive sleep apnea often accompanies excess weight, which means many people in LA and surrounding areas likely have difficulty sleeping at night. Excess weight often leads to obstructive sleep apnea due to the extra fat around the throat and mouth, which can put pressure on airways, resulting in snoring and restricted breathing.
Conversely, OSA can actually contribute toward weight gain. One study found that sleep deprivation—which can occur as a result of OSA—changed hormonal balances in a way that made it harder to control appetite. Specifically, without adequate sleep, the study showed that test subjects produced less leptin, which suppresses appetite, and more ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Ultimately, this could lead to overeating and subsequent weight gain.
The potential for reduced weight loss is supported in further research. One small study indicated that people who slept less lost 55% more muscle weight. The takeaway is that while being overweight can lead to OSA, obstructive sleep apnea can also contribute toward weight gain and retention.
Can Sleep Apnea Be Cured with Weight Loss?
Due to the connection between OSA and obesity, many doctors recommend losing weight in order to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. But is it actually true that weight loss cures sleep apnea? The research shows that it can help. In other words, weight loss is definitely associated with health benefits as well as a decrease in the severity of sleep apnea.
Reduced Tongue Volume
One way in which losing weight can help with sleep apnea is by reducing the fat in the tongue, to open up airways. A 2019 study found that losing weight significantly reduced tongue fat volume and other upper airway soft tissues, leading to reduction in apnea symptoms.
Improved Lung Volume
Losing fat around the abdominal region can also help by improving lung volume, which can assist with breathing as well.
Improvements Are Likely
If your OSA is a direct result of excess weight, then losing that weight can certainly help with your sleep apnea. However, if there are other factors involved, such as an enlarged nasal turbinate or sagging soft palate, you might need additional treatment in order to help your OSA.
It’s also worth noting that OSA can make losing weight much more difficult, as indicated in the research cited above. While weight loss could help with sleep apnea, actually shedding those pounds might be more challenging than usual.
Additional Sleep Apnea Treatments
In the event that losing weight isn’t enough to fix your sleep apnea, there are other treatment options. One is the CPAP, a machine that helps you breathe while you sleep, but not everyone can tolerate using a CPAP device, which is why various other treatments are available. If you’re in Los Angeles, these treatments are available through Dr. Kayem at LA Sinus and Snoring.
- SnorEx – This procedure uses injections to stiffen the soft palate. There’s no cutting and no downtime, making SnorEx a highly convenient option.
- Palatal and tongue reduction – Palatal and tongue radiofrequency (RF) treatments make use of an RF wand to stiffen and contract soft tissue, making it easier to breathe.
- Turbinate reduction – Turbinate reduction uses an RF wand to reduce tissues deep in the nose, which could help alleviate snoring and sleep apnea.
Each of these treatments are minimally invasive office procedures and involve little to no cutting, making recovery fast and easy. A professional ENT such as Dr. Kayem can recommend the best treatment for your situation, so contact LA Sinus and Snoring to schedule an appointment.
FAQs on Sleep Apnea and Weight Loss
How much weight do you need to lose to fix sleep apnea?
It depends on how severe your sleep apnea is. In some cases, losing just 10% of your body weight can alleviate symptoms, though more severe cases of OSA may be less affected.
Can sleep apnea be cured with exercise?
Exercise can help with weight loss, though it often needs to be paired with dietary adjustments. The two together could help with sleep apnea as you lose weight.
Does sleep apnea cause obesity?
OSA may contribute toward obesity by making it harder to exercise and control your appetite.
Can you be fit and have sleep apnea?
While obesity is often associated with sleep apnea, it’s absolutely possible to be fit and have OSA. In those cases, sleep apnea treatments from an ENT can help.