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Weight Loss After Sleep Apnea Treatment: The Real Link Between CPAP and Weight Loss

Table of Contents

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Daniel Barone

💡 Key Takeaways

  • CPAP and Weight Loss Connection: CPAP therapy can regulate hormones like ghrelin and leptin that influence appetite, potentially aiding in weight loss.
  • No Direct Causal Link: While weight loss can reduce Sleep Apnea symptoms, it doesn’t ‘cure’ the condition. Similarly, Sleep Apnea doesn’t directly cause weight gain.
  • Weight Loss Recommendations: The American College of Physicians advises weight loss as part of the overall treatment for Sleep Apnea, especially for those who are overweight.
  • CPAP’s Overall Benefits: Regular CPAP use can improve energy levels, mood, and sleep quality, which may indirectly contribute to weight loss by increasing physical activity.
  • CPAP May Also Lead to Weight Gain: Some studies suggest that CPAP therapy can lead to an increase in BMI and weight, possibly due to reduced energy expenditure during sleep.

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 (OSA) 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 who have OSA. CPAP therapy is the most common form of treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

exercise and sleep apnea

Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

It is estimated that over 30 million American adults have Sleep Apnea, 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 research 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.

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 studied, and more research is required to determine how other external factors, such as physical activity, diet, gender, ethnicity, age, etc., influence this relationship.

Does Losing Weight Help 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.

How Much Weight Should I Lose to Get Off CPAP?

A 4-year follow-up study found that for every 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of weight lost, a person can decrease the number of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) events they experience by 0.78 events per hour. In some cases, this may be enough to cause the OSA to go into remission.

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 published 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 the 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 when your AHI is high, you’ll notice that you feel less energetic and more lethargic, and you won’t feel like doing much. If you’re using your CPAP machine regularly and it’s working properly, you could 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!

Now, oral exercises are not a substitute for CPAP therapy. It’s not a cure, or it’s not the end-all-be-all be-all answer to your problems, but it’s fascinating stuff!!

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 the quality of sleep could also lead to changes in appetite and eating habits.

Final Thoughts

Let’s face it! Sleep is a complex thing, and a lot of different factors go into it. If you notice you’re gaining weight while using your CPAP machine, it’s something to take note of, and if it concerns you, you should discuss it with your doctor.

OSA is a condition that can be brought on by several factors, and treatment with CPAP, while it can be completely effective, is best when combined with an overall healthier lifestyle. The right quality and quantity of sleep, diet, exercise, not smoking, and taking care of yourself is always the right way to go.

–Dr. Barone

Living with sleep apnea isn’t just about CPAP therapy, it’s also about taking care of your health, as Doctor Barone has said.

You’ll feel much better about CPAP therapy if you also take care of yourself!

Live long and Prosper!

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More About Dr. Barone:

Dr. Daniel Barone received his medical degree from New York Medical College in 2006 after graduating summa cum laude from Fordham University in 2001. He completed an internship in Internal Medicine at Saint Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in 2007 and a residency in Neurology at Beth Israel Medical Center in 2010. He then went on to complete a fellowship in Sleep Disorders at Stony Brook University Medical Center in 2011.

Dr. Barone is currently the Associate Medical Director of the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine, an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and an Attending Neurologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He specializes in the evaluation and management of patients with all forms of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and narcolepsy. He is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Both Neurology and Sleep Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.Dr. Barone is the first author of multiple peer-reviewed publications on a variety of topics in sleep medicine and has appeared in several media pieces. His first book, “Let’s Talk About Sleep,” was published in January 2018 by Rowman & Littlefield.

  • Daniela Brannon

    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.

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18 Responses

  1. This article is based on junk science. It is abhorrent that you degrade and demean your fat customers, of which I am (was) one. Promoting weight loss and the myth of BMI is terrible. I do not have insurance coverage for my CPAP or supplies and have spent thousands of dollars with your company. No more. I will patronize your competitors, who do not choose to further stigmatize and make false claims to fat customers.

    1. Hello Sally, we are really sorry that the article came across as degrading and demeaning. The blogs that we post are posted with the intention of providing helpful information to our readers. It is never our intention to make our readers feel uncomfortable or give the impression that CPAP.com is insensitive. Thank you for calling this to our attention, we have edited the blog and are taking immediate measures to ensure that this does not happen again.

      I’d love to get more feedback from you regarding this article. If you would like please give us a call at 1-800-356-5221 and ask for Carol M. We hope you will consider giving us the opportunity to correct our mistake and prove to you that we value all of our customers.

  2. I have recently experienced a significant weight loss due to depression, How would I know if the sleep apnea has improved without a sleep study? Is there someone available to answer these questions?

    1. Hey Shirley, we are sorry to hear that you have been going through some depression. Lots of CPAP machines record data that can track your AHI. Here is more information on what AHI is https://www.cpap.com/cpap-faq/Software#ahi-apnea-hypopnea-index

      We do have lots of helpful representatives who can help determine if your machine is recording this information and how to obtain it. Please reach us at 1-800-356-5221 with your machine in front of you for optimal assistance.

  3. I gained weight after going on cpap because the pressure was set too low, and I was hungry all the time. I could eat out at a buffet, eating a bit much, leave about 7:30 pm, and find my stomach growling by 10pm. The hunger was so frustrating. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it was caused by going on cpap. Before I went on, I was overweight but my weight was stable. Before we adjusted the pressure up a bit, I gained 50 lbs.

    Cpap’s done a lot of good and I still use it, but there’s still some problems that you all haven’t figured out. Please, please, please figure it out before my afib gets worse, etc, etc. I do use cpap but it’s not good enough!

    1. I totally agree with you. My weight has increased by 16Kgs in 6 months of use of a CPAP machine. This is a terrible thing that I have experiences and I have started feeling depressed. Everyone is selling the pros of the CPAP without mentioning the cons. The biggest con of the CPAP I have experienced is the weight gain. I think serious research is required to identify the weight gain issue. Patients need to be aware before they are advised to start using CPAP.

  4. My doctors have consistently told me that while my apnea is impacted by my weight, weight is not the cause. Based on my history, they believe my apnea began at least by my teens (when I was at a “healthy” weight). Please also note that not all of your customers have intentional weight loss as a goal. In fact, research shows that the vast majority of weight loss attempts result in only small and temporary loss, often followed by gain of more than the original amount lost. Research also shows that weight cycling is harmful, as is weight stigma. I wish your approach to this subject had been much more nuanced and sensitive to your customers.

    1. Hey Diane, thank you for your comment. We are aware that Sleep Apnea affects all shapes and sizes and we have edited the post to reflect this. We have received lots of feedback from our readers that the original message came across as insensitive and that was certainly not our intention.

      We appreciate your feedback and have taken it heart. We have taken measures to ensure this does not happen again.

  5. I have been on a CPAP machine since July 12, 1989. When I first got on a CPAP machine I lost about 30 lbs. The body is no mechanism to tell the brain that you are no getting oxygen. You are either getting oxygen or you are dead. I needed energy and I used food to make me feel better.

    1. Hi Rich, yes you are correct. Our bodies require food to convert into energy. During an apnea event, the oxygen levels in your blood drop. This causes your brain to wake itself from sleep long enough to jump start your respiratory system into working properly again and get air past the blockage.

      We hope this information helps and if you would like to speak with us we can be reached at: 1-800-356-5221.

  6. The fact that your company endorses the totally failed and prejudice-based experiment of intentional weight loss makes me wonder what other advice you’re giving that isn’t supported by the science. On a psychosocial level, you really need to stop reinforcing people’s internalized fat oppression and the pervasive anti-fat prejudice and discrimination in our society.

    From a comprehensive lit review on outcomes for intentional weight-loss…
    “[O]ne third to two thirds of dieters regain more weight than they lost on their diets, and these studies likely underestimate the extent to which dieting is counterproductive because of several methodological problems, all of which bias the studies toward showing successful weight loss maintenance. In addition, the studies do not provide consistent evidence that dieting results in significant health improvements, regardless of weight change. In sum, there is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.”

    1. Hi Marilyn, thank you for letting us know about your concerns regarding this post. It is not our intention to encourage unhealthy weight loss to any of our readers. We certainly apologize to our readers who found our post to be demeaning or insulting. We make every effort to only post information that can be used in a positive way.

      If you would like to speak with us further regarding this post please feel free to call us at 1-800-356-5221 and you may ask for Carol M.

  7. strictly anecdotal …..I am a new user….low bmi & like it that way …noticed a gain of 1.5-2lbs per week…after 8 weeks
    began to wonder if CPAP could have anything to do with this. It’s quite clear it does . No one tells you about this of
    course. Creepy

  8. Gary.you are right ghey tell you nothing about weight gain. I have Stint and heart disease. I was told need sleep study had that done. Needed cpap. Got the meachine used it felt great. Used it for 30 days. Had visit with doc. Was told needed bipap.got it went from 245 to 280. Got off it took it back to the place I got it from told them to keep it. Lost 10 lbs. The doc. Told me I could die from not using it. I yold him will die using it. So it is the final. Chapter to life.

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