If you are wondering if using a CPAP and losing weight are linked, you are not alone. Weight loss is a topic that is of interest to both CPAP users and sleep professionals. In this article, we’ll explore how Obstructive Sleep Apnea can have an impact on your weight, as well as the link some studies have found between CPAP therapy and weight loss.
CPAP therapy is a treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure”. A CPAP Machine is a medical device used to gently pressurize the outside air and deliver it to your airway via the mouth or nose. It works by using this pressurized air to open the airway, which becomes blocked during sleep in patients that have OSA. CPAP therapy is the most common form of treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
More than 18 million American adults have Sleep Apnea1, which increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and diabetes.
In some studies, Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been found to show up at a higher rate in people who are overweight, but OSA can affect anyone and at any age. Typically the risk of developing Sleep Apnea increases as you get older and men are generally more likely to be afflicted.
How Are Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Weight Gain Linked?
The link between Sleep Apnea and weight gain is not one of causality, that is to say: Sleep Apnea does not cause weight gain and, by the same token, weight loss does not ‘cure’ Sleep Apnea.
However, Obstructive Sleep Apnea does reduce the amount of restful sleep a person gets every night, and some research2 studies have shown a link between insufficient sleep and weight gain. This link has been explained by the discovery that lack of sleep affects two key hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite and caloric intake.3
Low levels of leptin, which tells your brain your body doesn’t need to eat, and high levels of ghrelin, a hormone that sends signals to the brain that you’re hungry and need to eat, have been shown in those with Sleep Apnea.
The issue of the relationship between Sleep Apnea and body weight is one that continues to be studied4 and more research is required to determine how other external factors, such as physical activity, diet, gender, ethnicity, age, etc. influence this relationship.
Does Weight Loss Cure Sleep Apnea?
As mentioned, Sleep Apnea and weight do not have a direct causal link. So, while losing a significant amount of weight has helped in reducing the symptoms of Sleep Apnea for some people, the answer truly depends on individual circumstances.
It is good to note that the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends weight loss be part of the overall treatment of Sleep Apnea for people who are overweight, along with CPAP therapy 5.
Can CPAP Therapy Help You Lose Weight?
If losing weight is a particular goal of yours, being compliant with your CPAP therapy could help with that. Research published4 in The European Respiratory Journal shows that using a CPAP helps regulate the body’s production of appetite-influencing hormones ghrelin and leptin. Experts do emphasize that regular use of CPAP when sleeping and napping is important to treat Sleep Apnea and regulate these hormones.
In addition, using your CPAP regularly for Sleep Apnea treatment can have many overall benefits that could contribute to weight loss.
Here are a few improvements you can expect with regular CPAP therapy:
- Increase in energy
- Improved mood and mental health
- Improve quality of sleep
These improvements may then increase one’s ability to exercise and engage in physical activity, which tends to be a contributing factor to losing weight .
As a successful CPAP user myself, I can honestly say that as my AHI goes down, my energy level increases dramatically. This boost in energy makes a huge difference in how I feel. For nights where your AHI is high, you’ll notice that you feel less energetic, more lethargic, and you won’t feel like doing much. If you’re using your CPAP machine regularly, and it’s working properly, you should notice a big difference and extra energy.
Did you know that there are oral exercises you can do to improve your Sleep Apnea treatment? These exercises strengthen the muscles of the mouth and throat, and have been found to be a great companion to CPAP therapy!
CPAP Has Also Been Shown to be Linked to Weight Gain
Something to also be aware of is the meta-analysis5 that was done on randomized trials to find the effects of body weight and CPAP therapy on Obstructive Sleep Apnea patients.
The study looked at age, gender, BMI, baseline weight, OSA severity and more, to determine the impact Obstructive Sleep Apnea treatment with a CPAP had on weight. Their conclusions were that OSA treatment with CPAP promotes a significant increase in BMI and weight.
A couple of reasons this may happen is because the treatment for Sleep Apnea6 may decrease the effort used for breathing during sleep thereby decreasing the amount of energy (calories) being burned while sleeping. Another reason is that changes in quality of sleep could also lead to changes in appetite and eating habits.
Every individual is different, and our bodies react differently to treatment, so if you notice weight gain after starting CPAP therapy and you would like to figure out why this is happening, you should consult with your doctor.
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1. American College of Physicians. American College of Physicians Releases New Recommendations for Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea Published by the American College of Physicians on September 24, 2013. Accessed on September 7, 2018.
2. Harvard University Sleep Health Official Website. Sleep and Health. Published on Harvard University’s official sleep health site, on January 16, 2008. Accessed September 7, 2018.
3. Koebnick, C, et. al. Leptin and Ghrelin Levels in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Effect of CPAP Treatment. Published in the European Respiratory Journal on August 22, 2003. Accessed on September 7, 2018.
4. Gleason, Kevin J. Sleep Apnea and Body Weight Published on the website myapnea.org in May of 2015. Accessed on September 7, 2018.
5. Watson, Stephanie. Weight Loss, Breathing Devices Still Best for Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Published by the Harvard University School of Medicine on October 29, 2015. Accessed on September 7, 2018.
5. Drager, LF, et. al. Effects of CPAP on Body Weight in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials Published in the medical journal Thorax on March 7, 2015. Accessed on September 7, 2018.
Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, CPAP.com customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.