Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain: What To Do?

man on scale

Did you know that there is a complex relationship between sleep apnea and weight gain? Scientific studies and research over the years have shown that obesity can lead to sleep apnea. Now that seems to make sense ? after all, when you carry extra weight it puts more load on the heart and lungs and other organs. So it may well precipitate breathing problems and even lead to sleep apnea.

However, the reverse is also true. If you have sleep apnea for any reason, it can lead to weight gain. Bet you didn?t know that, did you? But it?s true. You don?t sleep well, you wake up groggy and tired, you feel that food will help with both, but it doesn?t. At the same time you are too tired to exercise. As you are less energetic your metabolic rate slows down even further and you keep on piling on the weight. And when you put on weight this contributes even more to sleeping problems. However, it is not your own fault.

There’s a Hormonal Connection Too!

Hormones, too, contribute to weight gain. When you don?t get enough sleep or you don?t get good quality sleep the hormones go out of whack. This leads your body to produce ghrelin, the hormone that tells you that you are hungry and you need to eat. At the same time if you suffer from sleep apnea your body produces less leptin, the hormone that tells you that you are full and you should stop eating.

Studies show that if you have sleep apnea it is entirely possible that the cells in the body reject or reduce the ability work of insulin to carry glucose to the cells. And since insulin helps in releasing leptin, the body produces even less leptin, thus promoting weight gain even further. When you have a restless night and cannot sleep, your body also produces more cortisol, which results in decreased insulin function and increased weight gain. So you see the vicious cycle that exists between sleep apnea and weight gain?

Can I Cure Sleep Apnea By Losing Weight?

Many factors lead to weight gain. If your weight gain is indeed caused by sleep apnea ? a sleep study will tell you for sure whether or not you have sleep apnea ? you should try and lose weight. A sustained weight loss program can help as can exercise. Unfortunately weight gain is a factor in many health problems as well such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Arthritis and other joint disorders
  • Cancer
  • Sleep disorders
  • Breathing problems

Since weight loss is good for your health on many fronts, it is important to be as close to your ideal weight as possible as even small weight reductions help. In fact, in mild cases of sleep apnea, the problem may be resolved by simple weight loss.


As you lose weight your hormones, too, will be in better balance and you will not be piling up the pounds as before, considering the relationship between sleep apnea and weight gain.

If I Treat My Sleep Apnea, Will I Lose Weight?

It would seem that if you lose weight, your sleep apnea will be helped. But is the reverse also true? If you treat your sleep apnea will you automatically lose weight? Sadly while the relationship between sleep apnea and weight gain has been scientifically established, just because you sleep better does not mean that you will automatically lose weight.

What treating your sleep apnea will do is increase your energy levels, and enable you to make the right food choices; this further puts your hunger and food hormones in balance, and if you follow a diet and lose weight slowly but surely. As you get more active in your life, you will be able to participate in exercise programs that will help you reclaim your health and fitness.

What Are The Remedies For Sleep Apnea?

If you know that you suffer from disturbed sleep due to a number of factors, it is likely that you may have tried some home remedies for relaxation, clearing nasal blockage and checking for reflux and throat irritation. There are also several?natural treatments for sleep apnea?that may be useful to you. If these have a limited effect, then you should seek professional help as there are various medical remedies easily available. ?

For sleep apnea specifically, doctors recommend a number of different devices that help by keeping air passages open so that you can sleep better. These include CPAP (Continuous positive airflow pressure), EPAP (Expiratory positive airway pressure), BPAP (Bilevel positive airway pressure) and ASV (Adaptive servo-ventilation). Sometimes dental devices or even surgery for tissue that disrupts continuous breathing can help.

Weight Loss Improves Sleep Apnea

If your sleep apnea is caused or aggravated by excess weight, then it stands to reason that weight loss will help. However, many people find losing weight very difficult. That is not only due to long standing bad eating habits, but also because it is easier to reach out for comfort food (which is more often than not junk food) to make you feel better psychologically and emotionally. It is only a dedicated and disciplined dieter who would reach for a carrot instead of a cookie, after all!

Trying out a new diet of any kind will help you lose weight at least for the short term. However, for sustaining the weight loss, you need to break bad food habits. If you make small shifts in your food habits, you will lose weight and be healthier, as will your family. These food and diet tips will be helpful:

  • ???????Cut out refined and processed foods as far as possible.
  • ???????Use whole grains of different kinds.
  • ???????Eat whole fruits instead of drinking juice or juice based beverages.
  • ???????Remove or reduce refined sugar from your diet, not only the sugar you put in your beverages but also the sugar sweetened foods.
  • ???????Avoid fried foods as far as possible ? try roasting and grilling options instead of frying or use an air fryer.
  • ???????Increase your intake of fresh vegetables.
  • ???????Reduce your intake of carbohydrates, especially those are made with refined flour.
  • ???????Remove fast foods and instant foods from your refrigerator and storage cupboard.
  • ???????When you go to the supermarket reduce your purchases of bottled, canned and packaged foods as far as possible. They are highly processed and usually contain high levels of sodium, sugar and even fats.

A diet of any kind actually restricts your food intake and enables you to lose weight. It can be an excellent way to kickstart your healthy eating program. But to sustain your weight loss, you have to make dietary changes. These will also help with other lifestyle diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol levels, inflammation and diabetes. Since the relationship of sleep apnea and weight loss is well documented, it is all the more important to lose weight so that you can sleep better. I do hope that helps clarify how the two are related, and that you are now empowered to take steps to improve the situation. If you found this useful, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line in the comments below!



1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome Symptoms: Diagnosis and Treatment | Fix Your Sleep Today!

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