If you’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, one of the first things your physician probably told you was about lifestyle changes you can make to help improve your condition. One of those lifestyle changes was likely losing weight if it’s necessary. With that said, should weight loss be your number one priority for treating sleep apnea?

Discover the role weight plays in sleep apnea and what you should prioritize to benefit your overall health.

woman's bare foot stepping on a weight scale in the bathroom

How Excess Weight Causes Sleep Apnea

Before we dive into whether or not losing weight should be a high priority for sleep apnea sufferers, it’s important to understand the role weight plays in sleep apnea conditions. Carrying excess weight can actually cause sleep apnea in some cases. When you gain weight, it doesn’t just go to one area of your body—it spreads out throughout the body. Three of the places it can accumulate are your chest, neck, and your tongue.

As the chest gains weight, it begins to crush the chest wall which can decrease lung capacity. With less lung volume, airflow decreases, and without the pressure of adequate air, the upper airway has a higher chance of collapsing which results in sleep apnea.

As your neck begins to carry more fat, the extra weight can cause the airway to narrow and become obstructed.

Lastly, your tongue can carry excess weight and become enlarged and fall into your airway and obstruct it during sleep.

As your body mass continues to increase, your risk of getting sleep apnea also increases. Use this information as some inspiration to maintain a healthy weight.

How Sleep Apnea Causes Weight Gain

Not only can gaining weight cause sleep apnea, but sleep apnea can also cause weight gain. In some cases, people were not overweight before having sleep apnea, but sleep apnea caused them to gain weight. Additionally, those who were already overweight, then have a hard time losing weight and end up gaining more weight.

The reason sleep apnea causes weight gain is because sleep apnea affects the hunger hormones. For instance, sleep apnea sufferers tend to have decreased leptin and increased ghrelin levels. Leptin is the appetite suppression hormone while ghrelin is the appetite-stimulating hormone. As a result, someone with sleep apnea would feel hungry more often and crave calorie-dense foods. This would lead to overeating and, therefore, weight gain.

In addition to affecting hunger hormones, sleep apnea also causes daytime sleepiness. After you have a poor night of sleep, the last thing you want to do is exercise. Well, imagine a poor night of sleep night after night. Your exercise regimen will go out the window.

The combination of poor eating habits with a lack of exercise results in inevitable weight gain. Losing weight becomes very challenging for those with sleep apnea due to these side effects.

Health Effects of Excess Weight With Untreated Sleep Apnea

Untreated sleep apnea already comes with severe health risks, but so does gaining weight. Here are some of the health risks that increase when you’re overweight with untreated sleep apnea.

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart failure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes)

If you don’t want to increase your risk of the serious conditions listed above, your best bet is to lose weight and treat your sleep apnea.

Can Losing Weight Cure Sleep Apnea?

Yes, in some cases. If excess weight is the cause of your sleep apnea, then losing weight and maintaining the weight loss can help cure your condition. We recommend staying in touch with your physician throughout your weight loss journey. You will need to take a sleep test after losing weight to see if it’s resolved your condition to classify yourself as cured.

Will Sleep Apnea Treatment Help Aid Weight Loss?

Yes, it can definitely help. If you try to lose weight without getting sleep apnea treatment first, you won’t have the energy to stay consistent. You need to get back your energy and regulate your hormones before losing weight becomes easier. With that said, we encourage you to get sleep apnea treatment before prioritizing weight loss.

At Top Down Dental, Dr. Nehwandian can provide you with a comfortable oral appliance to wear every night. The oral appliance helps to hold your airway open while you sleep so it doesn’t become obstructed.

After using the appliance for just a few nights, you will notice a difference in your energy levels. It’s important to stay consistent with oral appliance use while you begin to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your routine. If you stop wearing it, you may lose your progress and notice sleep apnea symptoms return.

Your #1 Sleep Apnea Priority: Sleep Apnea Treatment in San Jose

If you’re struggling to lose weight and have sleep apnea, sleep apnea treatment should be your number one priority. Contact Top Down Dental at (408) 354-5600 to book an appointment and to explore sleep apnea treatment today.