It's a fact: obesity is a major risk factor for developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) - and for making it worse.1,2,3 It is thought that obesity worsens OSA because of fat deposits, which make it difficult to breathe properly when sleeping.4,5 Fat deposits in the tissues surrounding the upper airway appear to result in the increased collapsibility of the upper airway, leading to apnea.4,5
And unfortunately, OSA and obesity can be a vicious cycle. This is because evidence from a study with only male participates with OSA suggests their bodies have higher levels of hormones that increases your appetite.6
However, CPAP therapy offers hope to break out of the vicious cycle. To combat obstructed airways, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is commonly prescribed to help keep airways open. The same study has shown that after 2 days of CPAP treatment, there is a decrease in hormones that signals the body’s hunger.6
Research published in the European Respiratory Journal shows CPAP can be effective for those battling excess weight along with sleep apnea.6 According to the study, CPAP use has been shown to help regulate the body's production of appetite-influencing hormones, helping those with OSA better manage their weight.6
And CPAP therapy doesn't need a lot of time to provide weight-related benefits.6 The researchers say that levels of the hormones were shown to regulate just eight weeks after those with OSA began using CPAP therapy nightly.6
Regular use of CPAP is crucial, not only when treating OSA, but also in helping sufferers control their weight. CPAP therapy helps turn that vicious cycle into a virtuous one.
Think you or a loved one may have sleep apnea? Take this Philips Sleep Apnea quiz to better understand the sleep disorder and to help open discussions with your doctor.
1 Resta O, Foschino-Barbaro MP, Legari G, Talamo S, Bonfitto P, Palumbo A, Minenna A, Giorgino R, De Pergola G. Sleep-related breathing disorders, loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness in obese subjects. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 May;25(5):669-75. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801603. PMID: 11360149.
2 Parish JM, Somers VK. Obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. Mayo Clin Proc. 2004 Aug;79(8):1036-46. doi: 10.4065/79.8.1036. PMID: 15301332.
3 Wolk R, Somers VK. Obesity-related cardiovascular disease: implications of obstructive sleep apnea. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2006 May;8(3):250-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2005.00508.x. PMID: 16634984.
4 Shelton KE, Woodson H, Gay S, Suratt PM. Pharyngeal fat in obstructive sleep apnea. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1993 Aug;148(2):462-6. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/148.2.462. PMID: 8342912.
5 Schwab RJ, Pasirstein M, Pierson R, Mackley A, Hachadoorian R, Arens R, Maislin G, Pack AI. Identification of upper airway anatomic risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea with volumetric magnetic resonance imaging. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Sep 1;168(5):522-30. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200208-866OC. Epub 2003 May 13. PMID: 12746251.
6 Harsch IA, Konturek PC, Koebnick C, Kuehnlein PP, Fuchs FS, Pour Schahin S, Wiest GH, Hahn EG, Lohmann T, Ficker JH. Leptin and ghrelin levels in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea: effect of CPAP treatment. Eur Respir J. 2003 Aug;22(2):251-7. doi: 10.1183/09031936.03.00010103. PMID: 12952256.