Saturday, May 23, 2009

Can a Sleep Apnea Treatment Make You Lose Weight?

Many people with sleep apnea are told to lose weight as part of their treatment. But what about the other way around? Is it possible to lose weight because of treating the sleep apnea? The first line of treatment normally is a continuous positive airway pressure mask or better known as CPAP which is worn while sleeping.

If you have been to see the physician about your snoring and/or possible obstructive sleep apnea then you might have heard the recommendation to lose weight. A high percentage of people who have sleep apnea are over weight. Studies have shown that just by losing 10 pounds can greatly improve your sleep. Why? With sleep apnea, the soft palate in the back of your throat collapses...extra weight can play a big part in the amount of room for air and only exacerbates the obstruction. Losing weight can be a challenging feat in itself much less trying to lose weight when you are miserable from sleep deprivation.

Here is some positive news. In the last 10 years that I've worked in the sleep disorder field I cannot count how many times a patient commented about how they lost weight due to their CPAP treatment. I have heard "thank you's" to the sleep techs and physicians because they have finally started losing weight after wearing the CPAP. How does this happen? There two ways...

1. There are certain sleep stages that regulate our metabolism. Most often a person with sleep apnea does not get into the deep sleep stages. By keeping your airway open and correcting the sleep apnea you are now getting to sleep stages that play a role with balancing your metabolism.

2. By achieving higher quality sleep you will have more energy. When you have more energy you are more likely to move more or even exercise...instead of sitting down any chance you get.

Exercise and eating right is still a big component to losing weight while on CPAP. You can't eat a quarter pounder then walk around your office and call it a day. There is still a need to start some exercise program even if only for 20 minutes a day. The sleep you're getting because of the CPAP should give you a new lease on life---take advantage of that extra energy!