Bariatric Surgery Not A Cure For Sleep Apnea

It’s been taught that significant weight loss in morbidly obese people can cure sleep apnea. My experience with patients and this recent study from Australia shows that in many cases, you can lose a lot of weight, but your sleep apnea severity may not improve significantly. Just like any intervention for sleep apnea, you’ll see a wide range of responses. Some people are cured, some have no effect, but most are somewhere in the middle. I generally counsel my patients that you’ll likely go down one level in the severity of sleep apnea: If you start with mild sleep apnea, losing a lot of weight may get you down into the normal levels, and if you start at severe sleep apnea, that same weight loss may get you down to moderate levels.

Did you lose a lot of weight, and if so, how much did your sleep apnea improve?

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6 thoughts on “Bariatric Surgery Not A Cure For Sleep Apnea

  1. I was talking to a woman recently who lost 100 lbs. due to bariatric surgery. She commented that her blood sugar numbers had not come down even though she was told they should, and she also commented she still had poor sleep.

    Maybe it would be a good idea that doctors suggest sleep studies before performing the surgery.

  2. I lost 100+ lbs with bariatric surgery. For the first 1 and half post surgery i felt my sleep apnea was gone, after all my blood pressure dropped to normal my joints felt better and i was sleeping better and feeling great. But slowly i started to feel the effects of sleep apnea again, headaches in the morning unclear head and forgetfullness and not to forget unexplained hunger more than normal. I feel that i need to return to my gp and ask for another apnea study and to replace the CPAP machine i gave away because i thought it was gone forever. Not knocking bariatric surgery i would still do it all over again because the benefits of the weightloss have been enormous!! Just wish the sleep apnea would clear up come to think about it it was my gp and the diagnosing sleep Dr. that kept saying it would be greatly improved if i lost weight. Sleep apnea is what the Surgeons and insurance Co. call a co-morbidity, at least 3 of which qualifies one for bariatric surgery.

  3. JP,

    Thanks for commenting. Your experience supports my assertion that in many cases, it’ OSA that can aggravate weight gain, rather than the other way around. This is why it’s important to address your narrowed upper airways, even if your scores on a sleep study may be low. Good luck.

  4. Hello Dr. Park,

    I wasn’t 100% sure where to put this but I think a post on weight loss would be appropriate. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing, with an RDI of 14.5, and it would have been 18.8 if I were in supine position the entire night. At the time, I had a BMI that was just close to being overweight, 24.8.

    Is there any chance that I any additional weight loss can improve these numbers, such as a weight closer to a more ideal range. (weighed 183 at the time, 160-175 is supposedly ideal for my height. The ENT I saw recently was baffled because he couldn’t find anything wrong with my anatomy within his field of expertise, but recommended losing additional weight as an experiment, but made no promises that it could work.

    I am surprised by the lack of literature there is on weight loss’s effects on normal or slightly overweight patients. Have you seen this work personally?

  5. John,

    Sorry for taking so long to answer. Somehow, I missed your reply until now. There are two types of people with obstructive sleep apnea. The classic types are those that are overweight. The other types are people with smaller jaws and dental crowding. In fact, I have many patients that are thin, don’t snore, and have severe obstructive sleep apnea. If you’re overweight, losing weight can help sometimes, but don’t count on it. Hope this answers your question.