Even Moderate Weight Loss Can Improve Sleep Apnea

Losing just a moderate amount of weight can prevent the progression of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and in some cases even cure the condition, according to a new study from Finland. People who have sleep apnea are more than twice as likely as those who don’t to have diabetes, and 50% of men with Type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night. The disorder affects approximately 18 million people in the United States, and research has shown that the condition is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular death.

Previous studies have shown that weight loss can improve OSA. To determine whether a reduction in weight can prevent OSA from progressing in the long term, researchers looked at moderately obese adults with mild OSA. The participants were assigned to receive either a 12-month supervised lifestyle intervention program or standard care consisting of written and verbal information about diet and physical activity. They were then followed for four years to evaluate the effect of losing 5% or more of their weight on OSA progression.

At the end of the five-year study period, the researchers found that the participants who had successfully maintained at least a 5% weight loss experienced an 80% reduction in their apnea-hypopnea index (a measurement of sleep apnea severity) compared to the group that had not maintained at least a 5% weight loss.

“This study provides long-term evidence that sustained weight reduction can result in significant long-term improvements of OSA in overweight patients and it can prevent the progression of OSA,” noted study author Henri Tuomilehto, MD, PhD, and colleagues.

For more information, read the article “Even moderate weight loss can prevent, cure constructive sleep apnea” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Sleep Medicine. And to learn more about sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes, click here.

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  • Sheldon

    Gee whiz. If I lost 10 to 20 percent body weight, I wouldn’t be diabetic either. Weight loss must be easy but not for me!

  • Joe

    I went from 320 to 250 and it had no effect on my sleep apnea, blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes.

    I didn’t “feel better” or “have more energy” either. I figure if you have genetically inherited metabolic syndrome, the benefits of weight loss are mostly mythical.

  • Dan

    I have never had a test of the severity of my osa and never even heard of apnea-hypopnea since my last sleep study. Should I contact a specialist?

  • Elizabeth Sheehy

    My dad lost weight – got down to “normal” range- with zero effect on his sleep apnea. I have inherited the condition from him (along with other health issues…)

    While losing weight is a fine idea if you can do it, it’s hardly a “magic bullet”!

  • chetson

    I only lost 46 lbs. but it DID improve my sleep apnea, AND my blood pressure,AND my cholesterol. I DO feel better, and I DO have more energy. Perhaps the difference is I kept the weight off.

  • BK

    The benefits of weight loss are definitely not mythical, but I will admit it is not easy. I’ve managed to lose about 25% of my body wt over the past 14 months, but know it took me years to finally succeed at that. I’m not even sure why I was able to do it now. I used myfitnesspal.com and found that very helpful for me.

  • Vito C.

    I started out stocky yet athletic .. dx’ed as T1 and 25 yrs. later I am now obese, HBP, high cholesterol and OSA and fatigue that has made me a couch potato .. what’s next? Heart disease ..yeah that’ll do it.

  • Shannon

    Every one reacts differently to certain remedial processes. Why are no two bodies are the same when it comes to health research studies and yet we study and research out of those same two bodies? Is no their DNA composition almost exactly alike? Their hearts, lungs, kidneys, liver, bladder mouth, stomach, eyes and ears not to mention limbs and fingers all function the exact same way? Could it be their chemical make up like alcohol, drug, medications use be a factors in these progress or end results? Like my husband for instance has sleep apnea but has never been tested or diagnosed but he stops more breathing now that he’s at a lower weight than I’ve ever noticed before when he was over 200lbs.

  • Trina Travis

    Losing weight is not as easy as people think, I have struggled all my life with my weight. I cannot afford all these weight lost stuff that is out there on the market.