CPAP Use Found to Cause Weight Gain

I generally counsel patients that good quality sleep is needed to more effectively lose weight. Conversely, poor sleep promotes weight gain. So you would think that starting CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea would help you to lose weight. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that this was not the case. In fact, using CPAP was found to cause statistically significant mild weight gain compared to sham CPAP users in this prospective randomized study. The active CPAP users gained about 3/4 of a pound over 6 months, where the sham CPAP users lost about 1.5 pounds. 

This study only adds to the conflicting results on CPAP use and weight status. There are a number of possible reasons why this can happen, but no one is absolutely sure. In fact, I’ve been disappointed myself that not not too many people can lose weight on CPAP. I had one patient who actually gained weight after a tracheotomy. Of course, I’ve also had many patients who did lose significant weight after CPAP, which only adds to the confusion. 

This particular study only showed weight gain with CPAP use. So far, there are no such studies showing similar results with dental appliances or surgery. Like what most scientific studies end with, more studies are needed.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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65 thoughts on “CPAP Use Found to Cause Weight Gain

  1. Debbie, Thanks so much for posting the results of your dr’s appointment. I hope that some weight reduction will help you; it helped me. Be careful with the diet pills. I think a good doctor would try to encourage more exercise instead. Keeping a log of the calories you eat is a good thing. Eventually, you will eliminate the high calorie foods and eating a low cal /healthy diet will become the norm.

    I’ve decided not to go back to my sleep Doctor. I know I gained weight on the cpap machine… and they think it’s the great answer. Being bloated and gassy all the time was uncomfortable, but when I started getting chest pains and had difficulty in breathing during in the afternoon, I knew the machine was NOT for me. In the past, I never had to concentrate in order to breath. Everyone is different and doctors are not always right. In my case, things that have helped include no more cocktails (once a week a little champagne), document calorie intake, exercise at minimum 30 minutes/day on elliptical, sleep with head elevated (a wedge pillow helps) or sleep on your side. If I am tired late afternoon, I meditate for 20 minutes to recharge.

    If anyone has any other suggestions, please post them. I’ve spent a lot of money on doctors visits, sleep tests, cpap machine and supplies. To me, it appears to be a profit center. I hope some folks are getting good results; I did not. This website has been very helpful as I don’t like to discuss this with folks I know. They just would not understand. Thanks to all!

  2. Thank you so much for answering my e-mail. I will be careful. My husband is a pharmacist and he looked at the side effects and thought it was ok to try. Yes I will be keeping a log too. My doctor will pull me off the pills if he see they do not work. I will not be going back on the machine no matter what. I am so thankful for this website words can not express. It has made me feel like I am not crazy. Since I have been off the machine (3 days) I have already dropped 1.5 lbs with no change in diet and I have not even had the opportunity to exercise like I have been due to an injury to my knee. So what does that tell you!!!! My stomach feels better and I don’t seem to be retaining as much fluid. Got a ways to go but at least I have found an answer and I have some hope. I will take your suggestions and put them to use. Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences. I pray that others who are struggling with CPAP and weight gain will find this website and put their minds at ease that they are not crazy and it is REAL. God Bless everyone and stay healthy!!!!!

  3. Debbie,
    Don’t worry about the weight loss–it might just drop off of you as it did for me when I went off the machine. Basically, it came off as easily as it went on. For me, I am back on the machine, but I don’t use it every night and I usually take it off if I wake up at 4 or 5 AM. But I have severe sleep apnea, so I am too afraid to go without it. Not sure if I really should be or not…
    I also have found it disconcerting that sleep professionals don’t seem to be up-to-date on the current research which shows that weight gain is indeed a side effect: http://www.aasmnet.org/jcsm/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=29161 I had to take the article to my doctor to get any kind of response.
    Good luck with the weight. I know if I had only mild sleep apnea, I would ditch the machine in a heartbeat.
    Nancy

  4. I gained 30 lbs in the first 5 months. I was so mortified that I refused to weigh myself again. My clothes are tighter every month, so I know I’m still gaining. I was over-weight to start with so this is NOT good. The doctor does not believe me that it is because of cpap machine. I can’t sleep without it now because since gaining even more weight I gasp when not wearing it. The gasping causes me to wake up, and it continues all night until I finally get up with a throbbing headache. I have no idea what to do! At this rate I will be a huge blimp with aching joints.

  5. When I talk to people about the weight gain from Cpap my friends look at me crazy. I went on the Cpap because I had severe sleep apnea and wanted to avoid damaging my heart or another parts of my body. Seven years after being on the Cpap I ended up with all the things I was trying to avoid. Heart issues, diabetes and other things plus I had gained 50 lbs.. my cardiologist suggested that the weight gain might be from the Cpap. I asked if I stopped using Cpap would I damage my heart as I now had two heart stents. They said to make sure I sleep on my side or put a pillow behind me. Two years passed and I hadn’t been able to go without Cpap. Two months ago I relocated and decided to go without Cpap within five weeks I lost 16 lbs. Always do what is best for you. I have had apnea since I was a kid and was never overweight. Once on the machine the pounds poured on.

  6. I have been on CPAP for 2 1/2 months now and have gained 14 lbs. My sleep study showed severe sleep apnea and I was committed to making the CPAP therapy work. I became 100% compliant within the first week and have slept with the mask on every night, all night. My AHI number has gone from 32/hr in my sleep study to consistently below 1/hr with CPAP use. I am hating that I have put on 14 lbs but the positive effects have been unbelievable. Better energy, fully rested every morning, no more “foggy” thinking, and best of all, I have come off my antidepressant (in the past , usually have had to increase dosage during holidays). Additionally, I have noticed huge improvement in my mild OCD. So, even though the weight gain has been awful, I am not about to give up my therapy. What to do about the weight gain?! After finding this website I am glad to know I am not alone. However, since I have severe apnea, I don’t want to risk going off the therapy. I gained the weight without changing eating habits or exercise habits. From other comments here it looks like increasing exercise has not had measurable effects on the weight gain. I am convinced when I was suffering from the severe sleep apnea I must have been burning alot of calories each night. Had huge dental bills in September right before sleep study as a result of severe teeth grinding (this actually precipitated the sleep study) and when I used to wear a Fitbit last year for a few months, I would look at the sleep tracker each morning showing many, many period of wakefulness restlessness with no periods of significant sleep. Add to that the grinding, I now know I must have been expending a large amount of calories every night. The only thing I can come up with now is that I am going to have to change my diet in a way that I cannot consume the amount of calories I have always consumed. After the holidays (right now, it’s impossible) I will see if I can begin lowering my daily calorie consumption. To me, it seems that assuming I have gained this weight over this time by not burning any of the calories at night I used to burn, then if I don’t change anything else but to eat less calories, the weight should come off. I’m thinking I am going to try to reduce my calorie intake by 300-500calories/day and will try and report back here after a month. Has anyone tried actually reducing that many calories a day while still using the machine?

  7. I just started the cpap machine Dec. 21, 2016. I have used the machine for 20 days and a have gained 6-8 pounds. In addition I feel I have retained water more than normal. I also have watched my blood pressure go up between 5 to 10 points on both sides. My sleep pattern has stayed the same. My energy level is still the same as if the I wasn’t using the machine. My doctor said I have only mild to moderate sleep apnea with a rating of only 5 episodes per hour. I’m going to go off the machine for 20 days to see if that makes a difference and the weight goes back down. My doctor posed it as an opposition to try and didn’t make it mandatory. So we will see. These comments did help. THANKS

  8. Hi Chad,

    Let us know what your results are. My doctor did not believe me when I had the very same reaction as you did. I showed him the comments of the others on this page and he still did not believe me. I went off the machine, sent it back and lost the weight. I know it was not in my head. I truly do not understand why doctors have such a hard time believing us when we are seeing these changes. Please keep us posted.

    Thanks and good luck to you!!! DS

  9. This is an update on my post of Dec 21. At that point I had gained 14 lb in 2 1/2 mos. I wasn’t going to try to diet until after the holidays and actually put on 3 more lbs between 12-21-16 and 1-1-17. So, a total gain of 17 lbs in 3 mos time from beginning the CPAP. FYI, I am a 63 yr old woman and a long time yo yo dieter. Gained and lost lbs all my life, never been a high energy person, fairly active with activities like skiing, golf and hiking, but not a gym rat — many days where I don’t exercise. I began a diet on 1-2-17 and since I have been fully compliant with the CPAP since the start I was convinced I wasn’t burning many calories at night any more. So, I began with a very low calorie, low carb diet of between 800-1000 calories/day. I have been being very active skiing, but on days when I’m not skiing, I have increased my steps to 10,000. Initially, the lbs dropped very, very slow. In all my years of dieting, I have been used to recent lbs gained dropping off quickly, but the 3 lbs I gained in the last 2 weeks of 2016 did not come off fast. However, good news! I can now report after 26 days on my plan I have lost 9 lbs. Many days of no change in the scale and then all of a sudden 1-2 lbs will drop off overnight (I weigh the same time every day). I will keep updating here, I was very discouraged at first, but if a 63 year old woman fully compliant 100% on CPAP can lose, hopefully this can be a source of encouragement to you.

  10. I have been tracking mym weight for a long time

    Without CPAP I lose ~1-1.5 kg a nite.
    With CPAP I lose 0.5-0.8 kg a nite.

    I assume I am burning less calories at night as sleeping “better”.
    Also, MUCH less need to urinate at nite.

  11. DS, thank you for posting that followup! You have given me hope. But how can you get by with so few calories per day?

  12. Hello, I’ve been using my Philips Respironics DreamStation CPAP with Humidifier for seven days now. I find myself waking up at night trying to adjust the leakage in the whip mask – so I think, and I am still trying to adjust to forcing air out while the CPAP is forcing air in. It seems like my sleeping pattern has worsen during this initial phase, and more importantly, I’ve noticed a weight gain of 5 lbs. This all makes me leery about using the CPAP machine. I was told by the sleep study specialists that my apnea is a mild case. On another note, I have been on diet and weight lose program for roughly 6 months now and see the pounds shedding every week – went from 244 lbs to 226 lbs in just six months. Prior to me using the CPAP, my mate has even noticed improvements in my snoring, and as a result, she too is starting to get better sleep. I’m proud of my accomplishments and continue to eat right and exercise, but adding 5 lbs after using the CPAP for only a week – wow! Now, I wonder if a dental device might be a better fit instead of a CPAP machine. Will I continue to gain weight, or is it just an initial phase I have to go through? Are the dental devices any good for sleep apnea patients?

  13. Mr. Hearns,

    Sorry to hear. Mandibular advancement devices are a good alternative to CPAP for people with mild OSA. However, you’ll have to see a certified sleep dentist to see if you’re a good candidate.

  14. The concept of the dental appliance is good; however it doesn’t always work. It prevents your mouth from closing while you’re asleep. Your throat dries out and you can’t swallow. If you have any TMJ issues, it will create a new set of problems for you. Save your money and don’t go for the dental appliance. Good luck!