Sleep Apnea and Obesity: Are They Related?

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing becomes interrupted during sleep. This interruption causes one to wake up and then go back to sleep while not being fully awake or aware of what just happened. There are two types: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common type and occurs when the soft tissue in the back of your throat collapses and closes during sleep, making it difficult to breathe. Central sleep apnea is less common and happens when the brain doesn’t send correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

How does obesity cause sleep apnea?

It is believed that being obese causes sleep apnea. There is a direct relationship between obesity & obstructive sleep apnea. OSA occurs when a person’s breathing is blocked by the collapse of tissues in the throat. In normal breathing, muscles allow this tissue to stay open, but if one becomes overweight, those same muscles become weak and cannot keep the airway open as well. The extra fat around the neck often referred to as a “pot-belly,” puts pressure on the tissue in the throat and can cause it to collapse. Obesity also causes additional health problems that can make OSA worse. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. These conditions cause the heart to work harder and affect the oxygen reaching tissues throughout the body, including those that keep the airway open during sleep.

People who are obese also tend to have a large neck circumference, which places more pressure on their throat and can make it more difficult for them to breathe while asleep.

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Treatment for Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Treatment for both conditions often includes lifestyle changes. Treatments for sleep apnea may include one of the following: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Oral Appliances, and Weight Loss.

For obesity, some treatments include Diets, exercise, weight loss programs, medicines to treat a hormone disorder if one is found to be the cause, and Bariatric Surgery in Mexico.

Tips to improve quality of life with either condition:

  • Try sleeping on your side as opposed to on your back so that your throat is more open.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Those who lose just 10 percent of their body weight can reduce or eliminate symptoms of OSA.
  • Practice good sleep habits such as limiting caffeine and alcohol intake before bedtime, allowing yourself to become sleepy before going to bed, and avoiding vigorous physical activity several hours before bedtime.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.
  • Limit fluid intake before bedtime.


Having sleep apnea and obesity can affect the quality of life for those who have it. There is a connection between sleep apnea weight gain. However, if one is diagnosed with either condition, there are ways to help improve symptoms of both conditions and live a more comfortable life. Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and obesity has improved throughout the years, making it easier for people to live with either condition. It is important to tell one’s doctor about both conditions in order to find the right treatment plan that works best for you.

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