Can Losing Weight Cure Sleep Apnea?

One of the most common questions I get asked is, “can sleep apnea be cured if I lose weight?” My usual response is, sometimes, but not too often. The more severe your sleep apnea, the less likely you’ll reach normal levels if you lose significant weight. If you start with mild sleep apnea, then there’s more of a chance that you may be “cured” of sleep apnea. A recent study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine echoed my thinking. Researchers followed 44 obese people with obstructive sleep apnea who were enrolled in a 2 year weight loss program. The overall success rate (AHI < 20 and greater than 50% drop) was 15%. However, overall, the BMI, arousal index, and subjective scores all improved. They recommended weight loss programs as an adjunctive treatment in motivated obstructive sleep apnea patients.

What’s your experience with weight loss? Did your sleep apnea improve?

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3 thoughts on “Can Losing Weight Cure Sleep Apnea?

  1. I used exercise to cure my sleep apnea, but I don’t feel that it was just about the weight loss. I believe the regular exercise or increased activity level in the way of aerobic or anerobic activity has more to do with it than my weight loss because I was just barely on the obese side to begin with.

    I can certainly see why a simple weight loss diet would not work because that does not stimulate the blood flow or manipulate the heart rate, or the endorphins. With regular exercise I have left my cpap machine behind, along with my fibro myalgea. My energy level is up, and I am happy to be alive again!

    I am so happy about what my exercise program did for me that I became a coach for the company that I bought my program from, and I spend my extra time and effort trying to help others on their way to improved health and show people how they can become a coach too.

  2. I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea 3 years ago in 2010 August. I subsequently lost over 80 pounds as I weighed 262 at my highest, (that I was aware of), and now I am around 175-180. My Pulmonary doctor said I had one of the worst cases of OBS he had ever seen, 100 apneas an hour in some instances during my sleep study. After the weight loss in 2013 August, I went for another sleep study and it was scheduled to be a split study. However, at not point during the study did the nurse/technician apply CPAP therapy to me and when she announced my study was over and I apparently did not need CPAP during the study, I am sure my sleep apnea symptoms are gone. I go to see my pulmonary doctor next week and I am 95% sure he will tell me that I don’t need CPAP at this point. Reason I think this is due to no cpap applied during my study as they would need to calibrate the air pressure as even if I still had symptoms of sleep apnea, I would not need as much pressure due to weight loss. I completely disagree with Mr. Ford’s statement that exercise has anything to do with the abatement of sleep apnea symptoms. During my weight loss I did not do any extra exercise other than some moderate walking. It is completely due to weight loss only that I feel my sleep apnea has abated. It’s all about weight loss and nothing to do with exercise as far as reducing or removing sleep apnea symptoms.

  3. Mr. Tan,

    Great to hear that you were able to lose so much weight. It’s likely that your sleep apnea score will be much improved, but I’m guessing that you’ll still have so mild to moderate degree of OSA. A split-night study will trigger CPAP when the AHI reaches a set level (AHI 10 to 15, depending on the lab) within the first 3-4 hours. But since the majority of apneas occur in the 2nd half of the night, your average score after a full night may come back at significant levels, despite having a low score on the first half of the first study. However, the fact that CPAP was not applied means that your score dropped significantly. In my experience, losing lots of weight will lower sleep apnea levels by one level: severe to moderate, moderate to mild, or mild to normal.