Understanding the Role of Weight in Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Tips for Weight Loss

Last updated: September 4th, 2023


Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

People with obesity can be at a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). As excess weight can restrict airflow, weight loss might help reduce some of the symptoms of OSA. Weight loss may improve airflow during sleep by reducing soft tissues that might collapse into the upper airway. While weight loss is commonly recommended for people with obesity and OSA, it is not a cure for this condition. Weight loss may improve some symptoms of OSA, but many people need additional treatments or therapies as recommended by their health care provider.

The Role of Weight In Sleep Apnea

Research has shown that extra weight can make it more difficult for a person to breathe while they sleep. Having more fat deposits around the throat and tongue can narrow the airway, put excess weight on the airway, and increase the likelihood that soft tissues will collapse. Excess weight around the stomach can also reduce lung capacity, especially for people who sleep on their backs. People with fat deposits in their abdomens may also experience impairments in the muscles that control breathing, which can contribute to sleep disordered breathing. However, more research is needed to fully understand why this happens.


The Effects of Sleep Apnea on Your Weight

Experts believe that weight and sleep apnea have a bidirectional relationship. This means that excess weight can contribute to symptoms of OSA, and OSA also puts individuals at a higher risk of gaining weight. Getting enough sleep each night is important for maintaining many functions in the body, including weight regulation. However, OSA can make it difficult to get quality rest, since the airway collapses throughout the night and interrupts sleep. Getting poor sleep has shown to affect the release of certain hormones that are responsible for regulating appetite. This could lead some people with OSA to eat more than they normally would. Additionally, getting poor sleep can cause a person to become less active during the day due to general tiredness or lack of energy. Experts believe that this, in combination with a hormone imbalance, can lead to weight gain over time.

Weight Loss and Improving Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Having extra weight can make it more difficult for a person to breathe while sleeping, so it makes sense to think that losing weight can improve symptoms. Healthy weight loss combined with lifestyle changes can often improve symptoms associated with OSA. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends weight loss for people with obesity and OSA. The National Institutes of Health also suggest that individuals with OSA should take steps to try and lose weight with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and lifestyle modification. Research has suggested that as little as 10% weight loss can reduce the severity of OSA symptoms. Weight loss can be beneficial for those with OSA but it is not the only treatment option available. Many individuals may need additional therapies, such as wearing a device while sleeping, to reduce the severity of their symptoms. Additionally, there are other recommended lifestyle changes that individuals can take to help treat mild OSA and reduce the need for more aggressive treatments.

Tips for Weight Loss with Sleep Apnea

There are several important ways individuals can try to achieve a healthy weight and reduce the risk of developing or worsening OSA. Here are some of the key lifestyle changes that may help reduce the severity of OSA:

  • Eating a balanced diet full of whole foods and nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits.
  • Limiting high fat and processed foods, as well as sugary snacks, and drinks.
  • Incorporating physical activity and exercise into your daily routine.
  • Getting enough sleep each night. Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption.
  • Working with a registered dietitian or health professional to create a personalized plan for weight loss.


Weight loss combined with lifestyle modification can help reduce symptoms associated with OSA. Talk to your health care provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that is safe and effective for your individual needs. Weight loss may be beneficial for some people but it is not a cure for OSA.

No Comments

Post Comment

Prove you are human 11 + 12 =

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!