Weight Loss Dramatically Improves Sleep Apnea

Losing weight can significantly improve — and possibly even eliminate — symptoms of sleep apnea in obese people, according to research recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. 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.


This condition, which affects more than 12 million people in the United States, is characterized by temporary interruptions in breathing while a person is asleep. These periods without breathing, known as apneas, last 10 seconds or more and may occur hundreds of times over the course of the night. Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of complications such as stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Researchers looked at 264 obese people (defined as having a body-mass index of 30 or greater) with Type 2 diabetes who were enrolled in the Look AHEAD trial, an ongoing study to determine the health impact of various lifestyle interventions intended to cause and sustain weight loss in overweight and obese people with Type 2 diabetes. The participants, who were all between the ages of 45 and 75, were randomly broken into two groups. One group was given a weight-loss program with a portion-controlled meal plan and an exercise plan that involved 175 minutes of physical activity per week. The other group attended three informational sessions over a one-year period that focused on the use of diet, physical activity, and social support to manage diabetes.

After one year, people in the first group had lost an average of 24 pounds, while those in the second group had an average weight loss of only about one pound. Along with the greater amount of weight lost, those in the first group had about half the instances of severe sleep apnea as those in the second group, and additionally had more than three times as many instances of complete remission of sleep apnea (13.6% in the first group, compared to 3.5% in the second group). (These results also give a hint about what kind of program might be most effective in helping people lose weight.)

According to lead study author Gary Foster, PhD, “The results show that… patients can expect a significant improvement in their sleep apnea with weight loss. And a reduction in sleep apnea has a number of benefits for overall health and well-being.”

For more information about the study, read “Linking Weight Loss to Less Sleep Apnea” or see the study’s abstract in the Archives of Internal Medicine. To learn more about sleep apnea, including its symptoms and its link with diabetes, head over to the article “Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes: A Vicious Circle.”

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  • Steve

    There really is a better way to deal with sleep apnea than CPAP or surgery. I spent 4 years studying sleep apnea and I believe that the root cause is due to the attenuation of the signal from the brain to the diaphragm muscles when the sleeper enters stage II sleep. This un-intended side-effect of the “reduction of muscle tonus” that occurs during this transition causes breathing to stop. Then, when the CO2 level gets too high, the sleeper makes a rapid inhalation DRAGGING the soft tissue into the airway, obstructing it and waking them up. The reduction of the signal from the brain is causing the problem.
    So… I found this herbal combination product that INCREASES the signal and keeps the breathing going. This addresses the root cause so you don’t make a rapid inhalation and drag the sagging tissues into the airway. The stuff is called Sleep Apnea Relief and I buy it from Nature’s Rite. I’ve been using it for 4 years and it is really great. So you don’t have to use CPAP. I just wanted to let you know.

  • Ken Wynn

    One of the major problems regarding sleep apnea is the fact that we all know the cure but won’t speak the hard truth. The number 1 cause of sllep apnea and the complications associated with it is obesity.
    How long will we let people suffer under a cloud of temporary fixes? I am a former sleep apnea sufferer who had someone who really loved me tell me the truth. I needed to lose weight or face sudden death. Once I did the math, I began to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Once my weight came down, I was informed by my wife that I was no longer snoring and I was no longer scaring her with those deep breathes/gasping and low tone snorting.
    The truth needs to be told. We can continue selling equipment as bad aids, or, we can learn how to speak the truth and save lives.

  • Mike

    Some people underestimate the importance of drinking a lot of water in weight loss. It’s especially helpful right out of bed to drink 3 to 4 glasses of water and wait about an hour and a half before breakfast. It really cleans out your intestines!

  • pat

    i think there is a significant link between people who gain weight as a result of poor sleeping. So they may have stress in their lives or they work night shifts and those with babies. I have seen that these people are putting on weight and then they can develop diabetes.

    I am a big fan of exercise and wellness and always look to encourage and motivate people around me

  • Micah

    Very good post I think it is important to publish content like this to bring people awareness up on the dangers of obesity. I have heard of so many deaths recently due to sleep apnea and I dont think people understand that being over weight is a huge cause of that.

    Keep up the great post!


  • loseweightthefastest

    What Diane states here is absolute fact. I have seen this in action. My ex-husband weighed almost 400 pounds and had horrible sleep apnea and snored so atrociously that I had to sleep in another room for years. Then he dropped to 165 pounds in about 4 months. The sleep apnea disappeared. I still couldn’t sleep in the same room with him because I really didn’t like him but that’s another saga. ūüėČ

  • shan

    I have done a lot of research on dieting, and one thing that I know you have to have is self control. If you can trick your mind to stay away from the unhealthy stuff, I say it is a good thing, as long as you don’t deprive your body of the essential components it needs. Thank you for providing this article.

  • nicola bingo jones

    I know someone who has shed 8 stone and had this special machine to help with apnea and now she has lost all the weight the machine doesn’t have the same affect and she does not need basically she has a more comfortable sleep with this dramatic weight loss and doesn’t need help anymore.

  • Jane Redworth

    Yes i agree with diane and i’ve doing a lot of reading and research on how to improve my sleep and i can personally tell that loosing those extra body weight does improve sleep.

  • Struggling with Weight Loss

    I do know some people who suffered from this illness when they were over weight and successfully improved when they shed some pounds.

  • Ben

    I ahev a slight problem. I have my ideal weight according to my height and age but I am suffering from high cholesterol. How can I maintain my weight and go on a special diet. thank you