Sleep apnea? Just lose weight, it’ll go away……..no sleep study needed.

Circumlocuting writes:

A few years ago I realized that my husband had sleep apnea. I would sometimes hear him stop breathing in the middle of the night and then make a horrible choking/gasping sound when he started breathing again.

Around the same time, my snoring was getting louder and louder (according to my husband). He said he never heard me actually stop breathing, but the volume of noise I produced at night was louder than anything he’d ever heard me produce during the day, even when screaming at the kids. (Just kidding! :-))

We were both in our late 30s and both obese, with BMI’s of around 35. We knew that if we lost weight, our sleep apnea would probably improve, but after close to a year of failed attempts to lose weight, we realized we just needed to see our doctor and be checked for sleep apnea.

I had the first appointment with our GP. The doctor very helpfully told me, “Well, I COULD send you for a sleep study . . . they’d get you set up with a CPAP machine that you’d have to use for the rest of your life. OR, you could just lose weight.”

I told him I hadn’t had a lot of success with that and was concerned about being treated NOW.

He said that I were just determined enough to achieve a healthy weight, I could do it. He had another patient who had been obese, taking meds for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., but one day he just determined he was going to achieve a healthy weight, and he did it. And I could too.

(So much for evidence-based medicine.)

So, I went home and tried some more to lose weight, with predictable results. My husband was so discouraged by what the doctor had told me that he didn’t even make and appointment.

Another year went by. And then something happened to make us take charge of our own health. A couple in our church lost their son-in-law. The man had sleep apnea and used a CPAP machine every night, but he was at a friend’s house one Saturday afternoon watching a basketball game on TV, and of course he didn’t have his CPAP machine with him. And he happened to doze off while watching the game. AND HE JUST DIED.

Luckily, our insurance allowed us to visit a specialist without having to go through our GP. We both made appointments with an ENT doctor, who sent us both for sleep studies. My husband turns out to have VERY severe sleep apnea. “Severe” is defined as “stops breathing more than 30 times per hour.” My husband stops breathing 90 (!!!) times per hour! I, on the other hand, do not have sleep apnea exactly — I have sleep “hypopnea,” which means that my obstructive snoring do not cause me to actually stop breathing, but it causes my blood oxygen levels to decrease to a dangerously low level. The treatment is the same — CPAP machines for both of us. The machines work incredibly well and are comfortable.

So, it’s not sexy, but we both sleep with our masks on and sleep much better and aren’t going to die in our sleep now.

We no longer go to that GP.

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56 Comments

  1. Beradette Bosky

     /  September 9, 2010

    Weight is *a* factor in sleep apnea, but often not the one it is easiest or even best to change! My spouse turned out to have nasal obstructions due to a deviated septum, past sinus infections, and polyps: before nasal surgery, borderline/positional sleep apnea; after, still small airways but never actual apnea. And I can’t help but think that *being able to breathe through your nose for the first time in years* is just a good thing anyway! We all need to ask doctors, “OK, so what ELSE can we change to improve the situation?”

    Reply
  2. Erylin

     /  September 9, 2010

    i’m so glad you could go around that fat hating doctor. If just dieting worked then medicare would pay for it…and their OWN studies show how badly diets fail…..

    Reply
  3. Maura

     /  September 9, 2010

    After years of severe depression and extreme daytime fatigue, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, prescribed a CPAP machine, and also advised to see an ENT about having my tonsils and adenoids removed. (The sleep doc also advised removing some of my upper palette, which I didn’t want to do, but I get tonsillitis every year and my tonsils are giant golf balls, so I was on board with at least getting them cut out.)

    So I visit the ENT, who agrees that my tonsils are among the biggest he’s ever seen, and says they should be taken out immediately. He also says my sinuses are full of polyps and I have a severely deviated septum, which would explain why I can rarely breathe through my nose. All good, right?

    Then he comes out with it, “But look, Maura, we’re ignoring the elephant in the room. [Seriously, he actually said "elephant".] Even after all that surgery, you still will have sleep apnea, because of your weight. You need to stop finding something to blame other than yourself.”

    Whaaa????? I wasn’t seeking “blame”! A doctor advised that my large tonsils were obstructing my breathing, and this doctor found additional major obstructions, but the “real problem” was my DEATHFAT? I don’t at all dispute that the adipose tissue that I carry may contribute to sleep apnea (I’m 5’7″ and weigh around 270), but how does fat cause a deviated septum? How does fat cause nasal polyps? Are my tonsils just FAT?

    What flipped me out even further was to research more about apnea and find that apnea can CAUSE weight gain and depression. (Makes sense that chronic sleep disturbance might have that effect.) So while it may be true that my fat is a partial cause of my apnea, it is equally plausible that it was apnea that contributed to me becoming so fat in the first place. It’s a chicken/egg thing. And while this ENT was willing to go in and address the nasal obstructions and remove the tonsils, his scorn and derision were so hurtful and off-putting to me that I just didn’t go back to him. And now that I don’t have health insurance, I still haven’t been able to have those ENT surgeries.

    Thankfully, I have found one doctor (paying for her out of pocket) who has at least addressed my severe daytime fatigue as a real malady, rather than just telling me I’d have more energy and be less depressed if I just exercised more and lost weight. (I do exercise for at least an hour most days, but then I could sleep for 3 hours afterward.) I wake up tired and stay tired all day. She prescribed Provigil, a medication for narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness. And omg, how this has changed my life in just 6 weeks — I now have the wakefulness to do SO much more, to take better care of myself, to feel like my brain is working rather than soaked in fog. She finally saw me as a person with a medical issue, not a lazy schlub with no willpower. And treated medically, my symptoms and my life are better. (Not cured, but significantly improved…and I have hope again that with this wakefulness, I can get a job and insurance and finally treat those underlying medical problems that impair my breathing, which I have hope will have additional benefits further in alleviating depression and fatigue.) Funny how that works when a doctor is a doctor rather than just a fat-hater.

    Reply
  4. Eve

     /  September 9, 2010

    I’m glad you are getting what you need. My partner also was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and has been sleeping with a CPAP since the spring. It has made a HUGE difference in both our lives.

    Also, I am fatter than him, and I don’t have sleep apnea. Plus, I have a thin friend who does had sleep apnea, and sleeps with a CPAP. So it’s not necessarily caused by the fatz and you don’t even need to be fat to have it!

    Reply
  5. Eve

     /  September 9, 2010

    er, *have*

    Reply
  6. MollyMurr

     /  September 9, 2010

    Did you know that the study which originally claimed being fat causes sleep apnea has been disproven? The author admitted he falsified data. A lot of other papers quoted from that original paper. There is NO PROVEN LINK between being fat and having sleep apnea. I finally had mine treated a few years ago with CPAP and it made such a big difference.

    Reply
    • Hey Molly, do you have a link to this? I would love to read more. When discussing fat health, I often feel like I have to concede that obesity causes sleep apnea. I would love to read this in greater detail. Email me if you have more resources: atchka at hotmail

      Peace,
      Shannon

      Reply
  7. Christina

     /  September 12, 2010

    I’ve had a CPAP for two years now. I have mixed apnea, which means I have obstructive aspects to it, and also my brain just sometimes doesn’t tell me to breathe when I sleep.

    My doctor said that weight loss with my type of apnea will not cure it. I may get rid of the obstruction, but my brain will still have the same problem.

    I’ve lost weight, but my apnea has NOT improved.

    Reply
  8. Theresa

     /  September 15, 2010

    Weight may be a factor, but my 150 lb husband has sleep apnea too. I’ve done some reading on it, because I’ve been trying to get him to go for a sleep study. Turns out it’s very important to treat it promptly because sleep apnea sufferers have a higher rate of heart attacks. It seems the lack of oxygen can damage the heart. Doctors can sure suck.

    Reply
  9. Julia

     /  September 17, 2010

    @MollyMurr, I did not know that study has been disproven. Do you have any source for this information?

    Reply
  10. Hey there I just stumbled upon your blog while googling info about sleep apnea. I was just diagnosed with sleep apnea a week ago and have wore my mask every night. I do have a problem of taking it off in the middle of the night while I am asleep though. I have found that this is common while getting use to wearing the mask. I can already tell a huge improvement in the way I feel! Anyway, I am obese and can not lose weight due to lack of will power. I want to and am going to start working on it, but next week I am going to stop smoking, so I don’t want to deprive myself of good food until I get use to not smoking..ha! Anyway, great blog. I can’t stand doctors who discriminate against fat patients. I have encountered a couple personally and never went back to them. I am going to follow your blog and add it to my blog roll!

    Reply
    • vesta44

       /  September 20, 2010

      Aimee P – Having been there done that with diets not being successful for losing weight and keeping it off, I can tell you that it’s most probably not a lack of willpower that’s keeping you from losing weight. I even had weight loss surgery and ended up fatter after the surgery than I was before it, eventually, and in worse shape, physically.
      If your health is good, other than the apnea, and you eat a wide variety of foods (fruits, veggies, grains, meats, dairy, etc), and get the amount of exercise that you like, of kinds that you like, then I’d say you don’t have much to worry about. If your health isn’t good, and you want to improve it, then improving what you eat and adding exercise you like will improve your health a lot more than dieting will. Check out the blogroll on http://fiercefatties.com/ , there are a lot of fat acceptance blogs on there that can give you a lot more information on this topic than I can in a reply to your comment.

      Reply
  11. toolplace

     /  November 2, 2010

    I must say your blog is awesome.

    Reply
  12. Gabe

     /  November 10, 2010

    I also have sleep apnea. I am not severely over weight but I had 35% body fat. I had the surgery the whole nine yards and I went down from a 13 to 7 on my cpap machine. I still don’t use it though. While sleep apena can cause weight gain that is only because you are tired. A lot of people don’t realize when you are overweight your gut suppresses your lungs and heart and that makes it hard for body to breath properly. I personally had enough. I started to do the P90X workout and started to eat healthy. I have almost lost 20 pounds and I feel great EVERYDAY. There are times I go to bed at midnight, wake up at 7am and still feel GREAT. I know dieting is hard, but seriously I believe the doctors are really being straight forward if they are telling you that your weight doesn’t help. Your paying him/her money to give you his/her advice. Sure your nose and tonsils could be the problem but overweightness is the most corrective procedure even over the CPAP because I believe there are a lot of misdiagnosed symptoms because when you loose weight. The sleep apnea all of the sudden disappears. Being sincere!

    Reply
  13. txgurl

     /  November 18, 2010

    I have seen people on the show “The Biggest Loser” being able to get rid of their cpap machines because they lost weight. I am not saying that weight loss will cure it in everyone, but you have to think about how all of that fat on your neck can be the cause of the apnea. I am not a “fattie hater”, but I do think that overweight people need to lose weight to help get rid of the health problems that can be caused by it.

    Reply
    • vesta44

       /  November 18, 2010

      txgurl – And just how do you know this person has extra fat on hir neck? Have you seen hir? And saying that getting rid of extra weight will get rid of problems caused by weight is irresponsible when it’s not been proved that extra weight is the cause of those problems. Correlation is NOT causation. Thin people have the same problems (arthritis, apnea, heart disease, etc) as fat people, but you don’t hear anyone saying that being thin caused those problems – for thin people, it was just bad luck or bad genetics that caused them to have those problems (yeah, right, and I have a bridge for sale). Not to mention that there is no safe, proven way to lose weight and keep it off long-term, and dieting causes more problems than it cures.

      Reply
      • Gabe

         /  November 23, 2010

        Veta44.

        You are right and wrong. Some people with sleep apnea is cause by genetics. But overweight DOES cause sleep apnea in a lot of people. How do you explain that the symptoms disappear when a person drops the weight? If you read my previous post, extra fat can be hard on your lungs when you sleep on your back. This can also cause you to stop breathing.

        Reply
  14. vesta44

     /  November 23, 2010

    Gabe – Weight can be correlated with sleep apnea, but causation has not been proved. Just because the apnea went away when weight was lost does NOT mean the weight caused it, otherwise thin people wouldn’t have sleep apnea.
    And I’ll say it again – if diets worked for long-term weight loss (and by that I mean keeping the weight lost off permanently), the diet industry wouldn’t be making 60 billion dollars A YEAR (yes, that’s BILLION, not million). There’s a reason 95% of people can’t keep the weight off forever, and it’s not because they lack willpower or they’re stupid. So, come back in 5 years and tell us how successful you’ve been at maintaining your weight loss, and how your apnea is still cured.

    Reply
    • Gabe

       /  December 13, 2010

      You missed the whole point of my original comment. I said some cases are MISDIAGNOSED because of weight. That is a big difference between someone who is skinny and just simply has sleep apnea. I was saying that when I lost weight my sleep apnea disappeared. Hmmm so did I really have it? I don’t think so. If I gained my weight back will I have sleep issues again? Probably because all that fat is compressed against my lungs making it difficult to breath at night. Even when I bent down to tie my show I was guess what? Out of breath! Now If I had lost weight and it simply had just gotten better or never went away then yes then I have a real sleep apnea problem. When doctors suggest to lose weight if you are overweight they “could” be telling you nicely that you are fat and this is why you could be having sleep issues. I wonder how many cases there were if people lost weight and the problem went away. They probably didn’t have real sleep apnea in the first place. Some sleep apnea is genetics. Sometimes it is a “disease” sometime it is simply just sleep issues because of weight.

      Reply
      • vesta44

         /  December 13, 2010

        Gabe – You’re making a distinction without a difference here. There are many different reasons/causes of sleep apnea, and unless you’re an ear/nose/throat specialist, YOU don’t know why any one person has sleep apnea nor what will help/cure it for that person.
        You can advocate weight loss all you want, but as I said before, diets don’t work to keep the weight off, long-term, for the majority of people, so if weight is the cause for one’s apnea, losing the weight, only to gain it back isn’t going to “cure” the apnea. Again, come back in 5 years and tell us how successful you’ve been at maintaining your weight loss and how “cured” you are of your sleep apnea.
        Any further comments you make will be deleted, I’m not continuing this argument with you.

        Reply
  15. Gabe

     /  December 14, 2010

    It was never an argument. Your making this conversation out to be more that what it is. I am simply having a discussion.

    Reply
  16. I am reading this and wish I could pass it around to my ignorant inlaws. My husband gained alot of weight over the years. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea 4 years ago. However, he was thing when we first married and I used to hear him snore, and gasp as if he stopped breathing way back then. he always had breathing problems, but had been ignored by his mother who said he was a hypochondriac. He had an older sibling who had a life threatening illness, so he got pushed aside. Since the diagnosis, he sleeps, and has also been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He has lost over 60lbs, and guess what still has sleep apnea. He is worried that I have it too. I do not sleep much, and have started to snore when I do. However, I have terrible sinus issues, I have even had surgeries that helped briefly. I am trying to lose weight as well. It is unfair that everything is blamed on weight. I have high blood pressure, but guess what I had it when I was 25, had no kids and was thin. Most of my family has it. I have it under control now, even with my extra weight. every person is different. So thin people are superior, who says? As long as you are aware of what you are eating and are not a couch potato, they should not look down on us.

    Reply
    • kyall99

       /  August 18, 2012

      Joann, my sleep apnea was partly because of weight and sinus and allergy issues. I was struggling with allergies that made me tired. I live in the mountains I work out fairly regularly but kept gaining weight and getting more and more tired. I also started having my hands and feet cramp up like arthritis. It’s a vicous cycle of sleep deprivation. Please get yourself checked out also. It is a balancing act with sinus or allergy problems but it does get better.

      Reply
  17. Tim

     /  March 4, 2011

    It’s funny, I had the opposite situation from the Original Poster: A doctor told me I needed a CPAP machine. I balked at that, because “what a hassle,” and said “I’ll just lose weight.” It’s pretty clear that losing weight will lead to reductions in apnea for many (not all!) people.

    Anyway, the doctor advised I start using CPAP right away. He made the point that lack of sleep tends to cause obesity– for one thing, if you aren’t getting any real sleep, you aren’t going to have the energy to get any exercise.

    I put the CPAP off for a year, but when I started with the CPAP, I started to lose (some) weight. Maybe someday I’ll be able to ditch the CPAP. But I wasn’t going to be able to make a dent in my weight when I was so f-ing tired all the time!

    Reply
  18. michelle

     /  April 27, 2011

    I have sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine. For me I’m overweight and know I need to lose weight but what can you do when you can’t seem to lose the weight. I work out almost every day and I just can’t seem to lose this extra damn weight. It’s very frustrating. I don’t have a thyroid problem just got checked for it the other day. I’m on medicaid so it’s even more frustrating because there aren’t many weight loss centers that take a medical card. I’m going to try and talk with my doctor when I see her next week. Some people try very hard to lose weight but for whatever reason their body doesn’t want to cooperate so please don’t think that all overweight/obese people don’t want to lose weight or are just lazy.

    Reply
    • vesta44

       /  April 28, 2011

      michelle – Losing weight may or may not help with your sleep apnea. The thing about trying to lose weight – if you’ve tried, over and over, to lose weight and can’t, or you lose some weight, then stop losing and start regaining even while still dieting, then dieting isn’t the answer for which you’re looking.
      I know of thin people who have sleep apnea, and losing weight isn’t going to make their SA go away – they’re going to have to use a CPAP for the rest of their lives unless the root cause can be found and fixed. For doctors to automatically say it’s your weight and look no further, well, that’s just sloppy work ethics on their part, which seems to be par for the course when it comes to health care for anyone who has a BMI over 25.
      If your health is good otherwise, and the CPAP is working for you, I wouldn’t concentrate on losing weight so much. I’d worry more about nutrition and exercise – making sure you get enough calories and that you eat a wide variety of foods you like that give you most of the vitamins/minerals/etc you need to survive this life, and then getting some form of exercise that you like to do on a consistent basis (dancing, yoga, biking, walking, gardening, cleaning your house, whatever you like to do that involves moving your body on a daily basis). Then have your doctor check to see if there are any physical reasons, other than weight, for your sleep apnea. Weight alone isn’t always the reason someone has sleep apnea.

      Reply
  19. Suka

     /  July 15, 2011

    I’ve got sleep apnea. I was just diagnosed and it explains a lot of the perplexing problems I’ve experienced with my body in the decade or two. I’ll be getting my cpap soon and I went to an ENT to see about surgical options to assist with breathing. He told me I was overweight and no surgery was going to help me except bariatric surgery. He did tell me that I had a “very wide base” of my tongue but of course, that couldn’t be causing my breathing problems (silly to think it might) and there is nothing he can do about that because my problem is that I am overweight. Suppose the thought of lack of oxygen (my levels got down to 73%) causing stress and hormone problems is too far a reach for some people. Beware of ENTs in the state of AK–esp. at Geneva Woods ENT–far, far behind the times and so thoroughly unhelpful.

    Reply
  20. fun fact: my 7 year old brother had his tonsils removed because they were causing him health problems, among them sleep apnea. He’s at the 90th percentile for height, and a significantly lower percentile for weight, and is ridiculously thin. assuming that sleep apnea is only related to weight, you’d think he’d have managed to hit 50 lbs before turning 7, wouldn’t you? utterly ridiculous.

    Reply
  21. It is a big mistake to assume that any one factor is a cause of sleep apnea (or any other disorder for that matter). Our bodies are complicated systems. There are multiple factors that cause or aggravate sleep apnea.

    For some people weight can be a big factor. For others it is no factor at all. The danger comes from assuming and not getting proper treatment. CPAP is a treatment, not a cure, and only helps you to cope with apnea or hypopnea.

    My sleep doctor told me that the problem is more related to the inability of the body to regulate the muscles in the throat that hold the airway open while we sleep. If it was just extra fat or looseness of the throat tissues then we’d have the same problem when awake. The fact is that the brain or nervous system is more likely the culprit for sleep apnea.

    I am a severe case as well and CPAP helps me to sleep at night and get rested. I would love to be able to sleep without it someday, but for now it lets me function.

    If you suspect that you or someone you love has apnea then get it checked out. Even if it isn’t fatal, it has been associated with higher risk of cardiac disease, high blood pressure, etc. Whether it is a cause of those things (or vice versa) is not clear.

    And remember, when you’re sleep deprived you find it much harder make the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight, so even if your apnea is weight related, CPAP can be useful in the short term to help you lose weight.

    Reply
  22. Leonard - Vietnam War Veteran

     /  November 7, 2011

    Wow, I can’t believe how many misinformed people there are on the subject of body weight and sleep apnea (I am including doctors in that group as well!) If you don’t have the time to read this entire post, then please skip down toward the bottom portion and at least read the final paragraphs for some important revelations.

    I was first diagnosed with sleep apnea back in 1987 when I was only 34 years old. I was NOT obese at that time; in fact I was in great shape and, at 6 feet tall, I weighed in at about 215 pounds. I’m a big-boned guy so I was wearing pants with a 34 inch waist which I don’t think would be label me as obese. Also, my tonsils had been removed when I was 4 years old so they were definitely not the cause of my apnea.

    At the time of my first sleep study the only solution they offered me was surgery which, after hearing about the risks and potential “mistakes” that could be made, I opted not to have. Nobody at the sleep center I went to in 1987 mentioned anything about a CPAP so I suspect that it wasn’t widely accepted or used at that time and place.

    By 1993 (at 40 years old) my apnea had gotten progressively worse. Granted, I had put on a few more pounds (I was up to 250lbs or so) but I had been told previously that weight was not to blame for my obstructive sleep apnea. I went for yet another sleep study at a different sleep center (I had moved to the west coast from the east coast by this time.) I went because my sleeping partner simply could not take my snoring and gasping for air any longer. I still have the results of that new overnight study which says that my “Respiratory Disturbance Index” was 87 while my “Respiratory Arousal Index” was 84. My new doctor did not recommend surgery; rather, he prescribed the CPAP. It took me awhile to get used to it, but the results were phenomenal and I have been sleeping with it ever since then (almost 20 years now!)

    Now for the surprising end to this story. A few years ago I began getting my healthcare through the Veterans Administration. Just two years ago I was diagnosed (more than 30 years after my discharge from active duty!) with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from my military service back in the day. Sadly, back when I was discharged it was not a recognized illness or diagnosis – we were just supposed to “man-up” and deal with our issues on our own.

    I took a trip this past summer and while waiting for another flight during a layover I happened to chat with a young uniformed soldier who was sitting close by. He looked to be in perfect health and was no more than 19 years old. As we talked from one subject to another, he happened to mention that he too had been diagnosed with PTSD AND sleep apnea due to his service in Iraq. I said “What? At your age and in your great physical condition you have sleep apnea??” His reply stunned me. He said “Yes, recent studies conducted by the Army have shown that there is a much higher incidence of obstructive sleep apnea amongst veterans with PTSD than there is in the general population. They have made a definite link between the two.”

    When I got home from my trip I did my own research online and was amazed at what I found. Copy/paste the following URL address into your Internet browser and read for yourselves:

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/CHEST/29274?pfc=101&spc=244

    In addition to looking at the web page, try Googling the words “PTSD and sleep apnea” and you will find various versions of that study being discussed all over the Internet.

    I apologize for such a long post here, but the point I wanted to make is that yes, weight can be a factor in the occurrence of sleep apnea. But for people to place so much emphasis on it as the main culprit is a huge mistake. There are so many causes and contributing factors that I hardly think that just one of them can be listed as the cause for everyone. I also have to wonder just how many other causes there could be that no one is even aware of yet!

    And, as a final note to my fellow veterans, the VA considers PTSD to be a service connected disability for which they pay monthly compensation. AND, in many cases they consider obstructive sleep apnea to more likely be caused by PTSD for which they pay ADDITIONAL compensation. I have recently filed with the VA what is known as a claim for my sleep apnea as being “secondary to my claim for PTSD.” I’ve read about many cases where the VA has awarded compensation for sleep apnea and I know that they don’t just hand money out freely.

    Reply
  23. Megan

     /  December 30, 2011

    A good friend of mine works at a sleep disorders clinic and while I agree that being overweight does not necessarily cause sleep apnea, there sure does seem to be a very strong correlation between the two. While some of her patients with sleep apnea are past or current smokers or elderly people or patients with a family history of the disorder (among other types of patients, of course), she has said that around 90% of the patients that she treats for sleep apnea are overweight to obese to morbidly obese. The CPAP machine seems to work wonders for most of these people (the ones who are willing to give it a chance at least). The top recommendation by sleep physicians to a lot of the patients who are obese and who refuse to use the CPAP? Attain an ideal body weight!! I am in no way discriminating against people of a certain size, but I am a huge advocate for leading a healthy lifestyle. If a great deal of the sleep apnea cases who are overweight do not care to use the CPAP, then losing weight can actually be a viable option. I don’t think that the doctors who recommend a patient to lose weight are “haters”, I just see it as them doing their jobs of ensuring that people take precautionary measures for their health. If losing weight can be a solution to treat sleep apnea in obese patients and this process of shedding pounds is something that the patient can control, why wouldn’t the doctor recommend it?! I think that people should look at themselves and what they can do to make things better in their lives instead of pointing the finger at everyone else.

    Reply
    • vesta44

       /  December 30, 2011

      Megan – I let this comment go through so that I could reply to you about the weight loss portion of it. Recommending weight loss for sleep apnea is all well and good, but how much good is that weight loss going to do if it’s not permanent weight loss? In other words, if a fat person with sleep apnea loses weight and their sleep apnea improves, is that improvement going to disappear when they regain the weight they lost? And mark my words, in 95% of cases, they will regain the weight they lost, and probably a few pounds more. Doctors know dieting for weight loss is futile in the majority of cases, but still recommend it, either because they’re too lazy to look for the real cause of the problem or they have no idea how to treat the real cause of the problem.
      So recommending weight loss as a cure for sleep apnea in fat people seems like an exercise in futility to me – weight loss is temporary and isn’t going to cure the underlying cause of the apnea.

      Reply
      • SNS

         /  February 1, 2012

        I’ve noticed you make several comments that dieting does not guarantee permanent weight loss and the dieter will inevitably gain weight back. With dieting, this is true. However, losing weight permanently is not a result of fad dieting or crash dieting. The faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to put it back on, plus some. Losing weight and keeping it off requires a huge lifestyle change. Meaning, what you do to lose weight is what you must continue to do after you’ve reached your goal to keep the weight off. Moderation, moderation, moderation!!

        More on the subject, I agree that all sleep apnea isn’t related to weight because as you said, there are a lot of very thin people with this same problem. In my personal case, however, I’ve never had breathing problems or issues with snoring. After I had a child, I gained a significant amount of weight. In the past year, I’ve had snoring issues and have been told I have breathing problems when I sleep. (I have a sleep study scheduled in a week) I’ve noticed that when I’m lying on my back, it feels like my throat is caving in. I’m heavier than I’ve ever been in my life and since this problem has developed, my weight has increased even more rapidly. Like another poster said, the sleep apnea leads to exhaustion because you’re not getting a high quality of sleep. I don’t have the energy to exercise, which is because I’m exhausted. The exhaustion is most likely causing the weight gain, but the exhaustion is also a biproduct of my sleep apnea or my sleep obstruction (as I haven’t been officially diagnosed) because I have been getting poor quality of sleep every night for months.

        I personally see nothing wrong with being treated medically for this condition and at the same time changing my lifestyle and getting the excess weight off. What could it hurt? In my opinion, there’s no reason to resign yourself to the idea that you won’t keep it off anyway so there’s no point in trying. We should always strive to be as healthy as possible, whether that be at 120 pounds or 250 pounds. Good luck to you!

        Reply
        • vesta44

           /  February 1, 2012

          Again, I’m approving this comment to let you know that it doesn’t matter if you call it a diet or a “lifestyle change”, if you’re restricting calories/what you eat/how much you eat/when you eat, it’s a DIET, and your body will fight you every step of the way to keep you from maintaining your weight loss. But if you want to go ahead and make those “lifestyle changes”, lose weight, and try maintaining that weight loss, go for it. It’s your body and I’m not going to tell you that you can’t do it. I’m just going to tell you that you have about a 5% chance of succeeding. So, make those changes, and come back in 5 years and tell us how that worked for you, kthnxbai.

  24. Vesta44, you are correct that losing weight, while an admirable goal, is not necessarily going to cure the apnea. It may relieve it somewhat (since it is an aggravating factor in many cases) but the apnea is often a cause of the weight gain.

    Treating the apnea effectively is the first priority. If they are able to lose weight and the apnea is less severe then that is even better.

    It is interesting to note that Dr. William Dement (a pioneer in sleep research and one of the first people to see sleep apnea in a clinical setting) talks about how people having surgery for apnea often felt better but their sleep studies showed that the apnea was still there in most of the cases.They just didn’t snore any more. (Note that is for the older surgery which removes tonsils, adenoids and part of the uvula. The newer forms of surgery are showing more promise.)

    Reply
  25. Laura

     /  February 28, 2012

    This is an old thread, but I couldn’t help but chime in. It seems like a lot of the “hey, just lose weight, it helps your apnea” posters are conflating weight (and appearance?) with fitness.

    So maybe you changed some of your habits. Maybe you used to be more sedentary and not pay attention to what you ate. Then you started making sure you got all your daily nutrients and had regular physical activity, and maybe you lost weight. Maybe you didn’t. The point is, the nutrition and the activity probably made your heart/lungs/body healthier, whether or not the number on the scale changed.

    Those who saw improvement in their apnea after these changes probably experienced that as a result of being healthier overall, NOT being skinnier. Size does not equal health!

    * I want to note that I’m not saying anyone should be subjected to bigotry no matter what their habits are. I’m just offering this as a possible explanation for those on this thread who are using anecdotal evidence about how they (or some person they saw on a TV show…?) had their apnea improve once they started exercising & eating better. Tip: It’s probably ’cause you started doing healthy things, NOT because you lost 35 pounds.

    Reply
  26. “Sleep apnea? Just lose weight, it’ll go away” INCORRECT!!! My husband HAS sleep apnea and has had the surgery to remove his uvula and tonsils that was blocking the airway and helped with his snoring. However, his Neurologist informed him that it’s a brain disorder that causes that the brain to stop sending messages to the body to breath.

    Reply
  27. Tom

     /  May 22, 2012

    I saw an alternative method to solve obstructive sleep apnea (http://re-em.dyndns-ip.com/health). Anyone tried it and can recommend it?

    Reply
    • vesta44

       /  May 22, 2012

      Tom – I checked out the site, and from what I saw, I’d say it’s a scam. Whoever it is that is purporting to have a solution for obstructive sleep apnea doesn’t speak English very well (you can tell this from the way the spiel is worded), no details at all are given, the seller is going to send you one written page with instructions on how to end your OSA without knowing anything about your particular condition or circumstances, and isn’t a doctor. Yeah, I don’t think I’d waste my $24 on this.

      Reply
      • Tom

         /  May 22, 2012

        Thanks Vesta. I just did not see that the seller promised the buyer to end his OSA; just to tell how he did it. In his words: “I estimate most of CPAP users, and most of sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea, can implement this method, solve their problem without CPAP, and gain good sleep”. About his English: he did not claim that English is his native language, or even his main language. So what is the problem with it, and why it leads you to fear for scam? Also, if he is a pretender, I expected him to pretend as a sleep doctor or a researcher, but he did not pretend as such.

        Reply
        • vesta44

           /  May 22, 2012

          Tom – I’m just skeptical, and any time anything sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I’ve seen too many “cures” for too many ailments advertised on the internet, and by far the majority of them don’t work (except to get money out of the pockets of people with the ailment and into the pockets of the people with the supposed “solution”). My take on the whole thing is this: If you can afford to take a match to that $24, then by all means, go ahead and order it, try it and see if what he has to say works for you. But if you can’t afford to burn that money, then I’d say it’s not a good investment.
          Personally, I’d rather take the advice of a sleep specialist over the advice of some stranger off the internet about obstructive sleep apnea, and I’d rather spend my money on what the specialist recommends doing first, before spending money on solutions found on the internet. Of course, that’s assuming the specialist isn’t one who blames everything on being fat, and has real recommendations other than just “lose weight”.

      • Tom

         /  May 26, 2012

        Vesta, you are right about “too many “cures” for too many ailments advertised on the internet”, but according to my understanding, the CPAP industry is (probably) just one of these “too many cures”, because statistically is not a cure for more than several months (the same as you wrote later about the diet industry…). So why an advertiser for CPAP machine that demands from you 240 or 2400 dollars for his temporal and partial “cure” is legitimate, and one that demands only 24 dollars for his cure is considered as suspicious or even as a cheater? Do you think that CPAP industry and OSA treatment system will publish a method that can make them unnecessary, if they know such? I am not sure of that. And yes, I am going to do what you suggested, to try this method.

        Reply
        • vesta44

           /  May 27, 2012

          Tom – The thing about CPAP machines is that they’ve been in use for years and have been proved to work for many people. Not everyone can adjust to them, but most learn how to sleep with them and find that their sleep improves immensely. Some people have surgery to resolve their apnea instead of using CPAP. It’s all a matter of what is causing the individual person’s apnea whether CPAP, surgery, weight loss, or something else will resolve the problem. And sometimes you have try several options before you find the one that works for you. It’s your body and your money, so you can do as you please, I just advise caution when dealing with unknown people on the internet. Good luck.

  28. JustAthought

     /  May 22, 2012

    I’ve read half the comments here and was fairly annoyed. It seems as if SOME people here are attempting to discourage someone from dieting. I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight by changing my diet. While it has only been a few years I haven’t gained a notable amount of my weight back. I believe the extra weight definitely wasn’t helping my sleep apnia. It has improved but that may be because my weight was part of the cause in the first place. For some people, if weight did not cause it, losing weight won’t fix it. Dieting and Upping the activity level can help you maintain your health. Even if you didn’t lose weight, cardio would make your heart stronger. And the added weight wouldn’t be as much of a strain on your heart. Maybe I’m young and naive but I wanted to share my thoughts. My suggestion for EVERYONE (overweight, underweight or healthy) CARDIO!!!!! I sincerely wish everyone the best for everyone.

    Reply
    • vesta44

       /  May 23, 2012

      JustAThought – If it seems to you that some people here are discouraging dieting, what is being discouraged is weight loss for the sake of weight loss – diets don’t work for permanent weight loss for the majority of people, 95% of people regain most, if not all, of the weight they lost within 5 years. Why else do you think the diet industry rakes in over 80 BILLION DOLLARS each and every year? I’m all for people eating in more healthful manner and doing the types of exercise they enjoy and will continue to do and letting their weight fall where it will, but going on a diet just to lose weight is doomed to failure for most people, puts them into a cycle of yo-yo dieting which harms their health more than maintaining a high but stable would, and plays havoc with their self-esteem (how would you feel about yourself after going on every diet out there and failing at every one of them [it's actually the diets that fail, not the person on them]). So, if you lost weight, great, that’s your prerogative, it’s your body and you can do whatever you want with it. But you didn’t say how much weight you lost, and I can tell you, from personal experience, that losing anything over 20 or 30 lbs and keeping it off forever is next to impossible for most people. So come back in 5 years and let us know how that’s working for you (and if that sounds flip, sorry, but I’ve seen it happen too many times to think you’re going to be the exception to the rule, but good luck with that anyway).

      Reply
      • Christine

         /  June 17, 2012

        Just curious. You KEEP saying that weight loss isn’t long term and doesn’t work out. And that it’s pointless to try. Sometimes weight loss isn’t “weight loss for the sake of weight loss”

        Often times a physician will suggest getting to a healthy weight, because it is just that: healthy. And just because long-term weight loss obviously didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean those of us in the process are going to fail too.

        Don’t be offended. I used to get my feathers in a bind too.

        If your doctor says you should loss weight, you have a right to ask why and how it will benefit you. As MANY people have thus said: it is not always the cause, but often times if someone losses the weight, the problem goes away too. That says something. If you don’t believe us, loss the weight(if that’s the cause of your apnea). Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

        As for the no one can succeed attitude, its very much a “Debbie Downer” vibe you’re giving. No ones trying to be a jerk about it except you.

        Reply
        • vesta44

           /  June 18, 2012

          Christine – This is not a forum in which to promote weight loss dieting. Weight loss diets fail for 95% of people who try them. This means that within 5 years, the person who has gone on a weight loss diet will have gained back some, most, or all of the weight she lost. It’s not possible to lose (and keep off permanently) more than 10% of your starting body weight. If that’s being a “Debbie Downer”, well, I’m sorry, but I prefer to be informed of the reality of dieting and weight loss attempts rather than having smoke blown up my ass. You can believe that Fantasy of Being Thin that the diet industry is invested in feeding you so you’ll keep coming back again and again and again and again when each and every one of their diets fail you, but I have better things to do with my time and money than waste them on something that has failed me too many times in the past. I’ll continue to follow HAES (Health At Every Size), which means eating as wide a variety of foods as my mutilated digestive system will tolerate (in moderation), find ways to exercise that I enjoy and will continue to do for the rest of my life, and let my weight fall where it will. So far, all of my numbers that doctors consider when they look at health are in the normal range (and have been the entire 35 years I’ve been DEATHFATZ), so I’d say it’s working for me. But your body is yours to do with whatever you please, so I’m not saying you can’t diet, I’m just saying there’s a 95% chance the weight won’t stay off forever.

  29. Leonard B

     /  June 18, 2012

    I’ve used a CPAP since 1993 – nearly 20 years now. I’m 6′ 1″ tall and weighed 275lbs when I first started on CPAP. Shortly thereafter I weight on a diet and lost about 70 lbs which I was able to keep off for about 10 years. Following a move to the desert in California in 2004 I gained a lot of weight back again – this time I grew to 287 lbs. And, this past year, once again I managed to lose about 65 lbs – now I weigh about 225 lbs. My main motivation for losing weight this time was that I had to undergo back surgery in February 2012 and my doctor told me it would be much easier for me to recover from the surgery if I could lose some weight. I lost the weight and he was right.

    My attitude is that sleep apnea isn’t about the two mutually exclusive choices of losing weight OR wearing a CPAP mask. There’s nothing wrong with doing both, which is what I have done for the past 20 years. I will always use my CPAP regardless of my weight because it just feels healthier to me. And besides, based on my experience, when I do decide to go on a health binge in order to lose weight it is so much easier to do so with the energy I have after a good CPAP-night’s sleep.

    Reply
  30. I’m wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made.

    Reply
    • vesta44

       /  November 23, 2012

      gmail has a reader where you can subscribe to blogs and new posts will show up there, but you still have to check the reader on a daily basis (which is why I usually have over 1,000 posts to read, because I keep forgetting to check). If you’re on Facebook, FDNH has a page that you can “like”, and every time there’s a new post, I put a notification there. If you have your notifications set so that you get emails when comments are made on Facebook, it would show up in your email that FDNH’s Facebook page has a new post, which most likely means there’s a new post here. However, that won’t tell you there are new comments to posts. For that, you’ll just have to keep checking back. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  31. Donna Zorich

     /  December 7, 2012

    I have been on a C-pap machine for about 10 years now. mt Dr says if i lose weight i could get rid of it… I have lost almost 50 pounds and am stuck at 217. however my sleep apnea has not improved it has worsened. I have had the deviated septum, and sinus surgery as well. im down to about 4 hours of sleep at night and my sleep study says i stop breathing about 112 times so it is severe. Any suggestions of what to do next?

    Reply
    • Hi Donna can i ask u a question are u in full time work or do u claim any kind of benifits. As i am a HGV driver and am possibly going to loose my job over this is there any kind of benifitts out there for us thanks

      Reply
  32. Dusky Flower

     /  January 30, 2013

    …Sleep apnea CAUSES weight gain. My dad lost weight AFTER he got the sleep machine, his knees got better, everything got better.

    I have no words.

    Reply
  33. Ok so I know this is 3 years old now but I just discovered this and wanted to comment. I stumbled upon this by doing a search of “Do you have to use a cpap machine for the rest of your life?”. I have been having sleep issues for awhile and finally had a sleep consultation where the doctor said he thinks I have sleep apnea and preceded to tell me about cpap and other options. I am scheduled for a sleep study in a month from now to be sure. I have to say I was disappointed after reading this. I am overweight (by 100lbs) and have started to slowly lose weight again. I say again because I have been up and down my whole life and lost a lot of weight 10 yrs ago. I started putting it back on again 5 yrs ago with the help of undiagnosed hypothyroidism, stress, and a badly influenced relationship. I have had my concerns about sleep apnea devices ever since the doctor talked to me about it. I am only 30. If I start to use these devices now will I really have to use them for the rest of my life? When I saw the title of this I had a shimmer of hope, like maybe it is true that losing weight helps (which I have read) and maybe this could be an inspiring story. It would be more motivation for me. As I read I realized it wasn’t exactly what the title was talking about. But then I read the part where the man died because he didn’t have his cpap machine one night. I thought at that point it would turn around to “See how bad it is to rely on cpap machines?” But instead it turned out to be motivation for you guys to use them? I don’t get that. That is one thing that has made me nervous that the doctor was talking about, how your airways get used to using the machine so you always have to use it. And your story of the man dying has fueled that fear in me even more about using that machine. Does no one fall asleep without expecting too? My husband definitely has sleep apnea (no diagnosis though yet, I just know) and he could probably use a machine like that. But he falls asleep frequently on the couch or the floor watching TV. I would worry he would end up like this guy if he started to rely on a cpap machine. Btw, he is 200lbs overweight. So I don’t really know what to think. The way my doctor has been touting this cpap machine, it sounds money motivated. I even told him I have a deviated septum and needed braces for awhile including my jaw being somewhat misaligned. He says one of those mouth guards might work in my case but a cpap is the best option. For now I am going to continue to lose weight and work on getting money for braces (don’t know about deviated septum, might be a last resort thing) Maybe use a mouth guard for the time being. Do you have to rely on that for the rest of your life if you start using it too? I think my husband should get a sleep study but I want him to lose weight anyway so it doesn’t hurt to see if that will work first. Maybe just more motivation for him. I am interested in finding out if others have lost weight and it helped at least somewhat. I have also read about other natural ways to rid yourself of sleep apnea including throat exercises in a search I did. Going to at least try something else.

    Reply
    • Helbex, you may or may not have to stay on CPAP your whole life. There are a lot of factors that affect it. Sometimes losing weight will help. In other cases it won’t. Sometimes surgery helps, but not always. And even when it does, sometimes it comes back again.

      I’ve heard that there are exercises that can help (playing the didgeridoo for example). They build up the strength of your throat muscles. Sometimes a mouth guard may work, but sleep studies have shown that they don’t work completely in every case and mask the fact that there is still some apnea occurring deeper in the throat. They can stop the snoring though.

      CPAP is not a cure, it is a treatment. It allows you to sleep properly. I’d recommend that you get the CPAP machine now and use it. Having sleep apnea is incredibly tough on your body and makes it that much harder to lose weight, reduce stress, etc. Treat the apnea first. Then work on the weight and other health changes.

      Once you’re healthy you may no longer need the CPAP. But if you do, it is certainly better to be dependent on the machine than it is to suffer the effects of apnea.

      People do die from apnea related events due to the extreme stress they can cause. I don’t know if CPAP makes the apnea worse. I have found that I’ve been better on those occasions where I have to sleep without it. Not cured by any stretch, but better than I was before the machine.

      I’ve written several articles about my experiences with apnea at my Toxic Habits website. If you’re interested, check out http://sleepapnea.toxichabits.com/we-are-all-of-us-nuts/ which deals with sleep issues in general. There are several other articles there specifically about apnea and CPAP.

      Good luck on making the changes that will help you get healthy! It is hard, but every little bit counts.

      Reply
  34. That’s wrong. I was 60 to 70 pounds thinner when I developed sleep apnea symptoms. Was in great shape. Walking 3-4 miles daily. Then suddenly bedridden. :( Idk what triggered it but it hit me with a vengeance. So weight has NO bearing on it necessarily. I’m so tired of people telling me to lose weight. I have the weight BECAUSE of the sleep apnea. Not the sleep Apnea because of the weight. And get your kids checked. My youngest is 5’11″. He works out daily. Always has. Eats extremely healthy. Doctor said his blood work was text book perfect. He weighs about 150. Took him for the sleep test. Now he’s on a machine.. His sleep number is low but he still needs it. Fat people need to quit being beat up, and beating themselves up, for health issues they may have. Heredity plays a major factor.

    Reply

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