June 10, 2022

Can Sleep Apnea Affect Your Weight? Four Facts You Should Know

The Qilo Team avatar
The Qilo Team
Dr. Bosah Chike avatar
Medically reviewed BY
Dr. Bosah Chike
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Sleep Apnea affects more than your chances of getting a good night’s sleep or not waking up with a cranky feeling by morning.

This medically recognized disorder causes a disrupted breathing pattern; wherein a person’s breathing stops and starts again repeatedly while asleep.

There are three types of Sleep Apnea; the Obstructive Sleep Apnea – which is the most common type – (also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea or OSA) occurs when the upper airway muscles collapse and is blocked from receiving adequate airflow, causing involuntary breathing pauses.

The second kind of Sleep Apnea is called the Central Sleep Apnea and occurs when the brain stops sending signals to the respiratory muscles responsible for controlling breathing. This usually occurs in sufferers with an underlying medical condition related to the brain.

The third kind, called the Complex Sleep Apnea, is a combination of the Obstructive Sleep Apnea & the Central Sleep Apnea. 

Some of the most common symptoms of Sleep Apnea include loud snoring, night sweats, mood disturbances, excessive daytime sleepiness, abrupt awakenings while gasping or choking, morning headaches, dry mouth, and a sore throat, amongst others.

A physical examination by a doctor is usually how sleep apnea is diagnosed. In some cases, a sleep specialist may also do an evaluation to determine the severity of this condition and the best treatment plan.


How does sleep apnea affect a person’s weight?

Here are some findings regarding this health concern and its relationship with body weight:

  • A Clear Link Between Sleep Apnea And Excess Weight Has Been Established: Several studies have shown that obesity is considered one of the strongest link factors responsible for the development of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, as OSA is the most common in people who are overweight or obese. This is a result of fat tissues usually being around the throat and abdomen of people with excessive weight. These fatty deposits, especially around the upper respiratory tract, contribute greatly to the blockage of the flow of air into the lungs.
  • Short Sleep/Poor Sleep Increases The Risk Of Weight Gain: Adults require a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep to function optimally. If you’re losing sleep or have an inconsistent sleeping pattern (something that Obstructive Sleep Apnoea can cause; making the body go from deep sleep to a light sleep at intervals), your body’s ability to lose weight at an efficient rate continually drops. This eventually leads to lower energy levels which affect the person’s ability to maintain healthy body weight; manifesting as constant fatigue and exhaustion, diminished self-control & lack of motivation, a lower desire to eat healthy and less energy for physical activities (i.e exercising).
  • Sleep Apnea Can Also Cause An Increase In Appetite: Leptin and Ghrelin, two hormones that influence satiety and hunger, have a role to play in the balanced regulation of the body's energy and appetite. Leptin is the hormone that decreases appetite and Ghrelin is the hormone that increases appetite. An imbalance of this hormone reflects in a person’s appetite patterns. Poor sleep affects the hormones that regulate hunger, causing significantly higher levels of Ghrelin in their system, as well as lower levels of Leptin. The effect of this is requiring more intake of food to feel full, getting hungry more frequently, and consuming more calories than the body actually needs.
  • Losing Weight Can Aid The Treatment Of Sleep Apnea: As sleep apnea and weight gain are interrelated, working towards the reduction of weight can relieve sufferers of the symptoms of Sleep Apnea. Studies have confirmed that a 10-15% weight loss in a sufferer of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea can reduce the severity of this condition (and its symptoms) by as much as 50% in a moderately obese person. This is why medical professionals recommend weight loss for sleep apnea conditions.

How Is Sleep Apnea Cured?

Treating sleep apnea, like treating many diseases, starts with lifestyle and behavioral modifications.

Losing weight is one of the most important changes to be made, as patients are required to actively work towards reaching and maintaining healthy body weight.

Other treatments include the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, getting on a clean diet, eliminating alcohol and smoking, avoiding certain medications, treating nasal congestion or allergies, and adopting better sleeping habits (having a sleep schedule helps). In some extreme cases, surgery may be required.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is a condition that can require long-term treatment, but if adhered to, symptoms can significantly improve and the benefits of that – getting better sleep, improved health, higher energy levels, etc – leave a clear difference in one’s overall quality of life.

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