CPAP and weight loss
CPAP Therapy Tips

The Real Link Between CPAP and Weight Loss

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 .

exercise and sleep apnea

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.

If you’d like to get more useful Sleep Apnea information and CPAP therapy tips delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter.

 

References:

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.

13 comments

    This fatphobic article and the junk science of BMI and intentional weight loss has made me question my loyalty to your company. 95-97% of all attempts at intentional weight loss result in weight gain between 12-60 months later. Plus a typical gain of additional weight. This process of weight-cycling injures the metabolism, heart, and human beings in general.

    That image of a pickaxe smashing a weight labeled “heavy” is incredibly violent and fatphobic. Some of your customers are fat. That image is harmful to us, as is the junk science called BMI.

    The other junk science in Daniela Brannon’s article was the false assumption that people are fat (or gain weight) because and only because fat people eat more food than thin people. This is garbage.

    I received this awful blog post as a featured link in my email, from a CPAP.com content aggregator marketing email. If CPAP.com sends out more poorly-written, fatphobic missives like this, it will demonstrate that CPAP.com does not care about the dignity and health of your fat customers. As a result, I will take all my CPAP-related business elsewhere. You don’t have the market cornered on supplies for my chronic health condition. I will not support your insulting fatphobia.

      Hi A.J., Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. It was not our intention to insult or make any of our customers feel uncomfortable. We certainly do not feel that Sleep Apnea is a condition that only overweight people are faced with. We know for a fact that this is not true, however being overweight does seem to increase the possibility of being diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, that along with the fact that we really do care about our readers health and well-being is why the article was published. We have edited the article to reflect this more clearly, including removing the offensive pickaxe image.

      We hope that you would consider allowing us to correct our errors and reconsider allowing us to continue supplying your CPAP needs. If you would like to speak with us further I would be more than happy to speak with you personally. Please feel free to give me a call at: 1-800-356-5221 and ask for Carol M.

    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.

      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.

    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?

      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.

    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!

    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.

      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.

    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.

      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.

    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.”
    http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-04834-008

      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.

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