Sleep Apnea Solved With Surprising Treatment

sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder which interrupts people’s periods of sleep sometimes even dozens of times per night, but researchers may have finally solved it by using a surprising treatment: weight loss. The connection between excessive weight and this condition is well established because overweight people have extra tissue in the back of the throat which can block the flow of air into the lungs while sleeping. If untreated, this ailment can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Sleep apnea usually walks hand in hand with morning headaches, fatigue, dry mouth or a feeling of sleepiness, but a report which can be found in the February 11 issue of the journal Sleep Medicine helps people grasp and embrace the possibility that they could have this disorder. Doctor Henri Tuomilehto, adjunct professor at Kuopio’s University of Eastern Finland’s Oivauni Sleep Clinic considers that “being overweight is considered the most important risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea.”  He also adds that being overweight boosts the risk for this ailment by ten times and approximately 70 percent of people with this disorder are obese. As a result, it has become obvious that losing weight is an essential part in solving sleep apnea, but this surprising treatment is only one of the options.

Doctor Tuomilehto stated that losing weight “represents the first-line treatment in the early phases of the disease and has a good chance of curing the  disease or at least preventing the progression,”  but doctor Harly Greenberg, head of sleep medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York believes that weight loss is not enough to help all the people with sleep apnea.

The American College of Physicians states that lifestyle modifications are essential when it comes to treating this disorder and doctor Lawrence Epstein, assistant medical director of clinical sleep medicine at Harvard urges people who suffer from this ailment to lose 10 percent of body weight in order to have a positive impact. Although there are plenty of disbelievers with regard to solving sleep apnea with this surprising treatment, doctor Epstein mentioned that, in some cases, people who lose a significant amount of weight can cure the condition.

One recommendation when it comes to this disorder is continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP is a mask which fits over the nose and mouth and blows air into the airways so that they remain open at night, but at least half of the people who try this device do not continue the treatment.

Another method of solving sleep apnea is an oral appliance which must be inserted into the mouth because it prevents the tongue and tissues in the back of the throat from falling down on the airway during sleep.

However, the only manner in which a person can solve sleep apnea is with the help of surgery of weight loss, which is a surprising yet beneficial treatment. Removing the excess tissue from the palate or throat is usually the last resort, which makes losing weight the best solution.

“When patients ask me which CPAP device is best, I tell them, ‘ The one you’re going to use’,” Doctor Epstein says when asked about personalized treatment.

Sleep apnea is a disorder which can endanger a person’s life because it could lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, but researchers state that it can be solved with the help of a surprising treatment: weight loss.

By Gabriela Motroc


Harvard Health Publications

Health Day


Johns Hopkins

One Response to "Sleep Apnea Solved With Surprising Treatment"

  1. Mack Jones, MD   February 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Sleep apnea is a neurological disease involving malfunctioning brainstem respiratory neurons that fail to maintain an open airway while asleep resulting in repeated bouts of airway obstruction causing reduced blood oxygen and surges of cortisol which cause weight gain. Excess weight can worsen sleep apnea. Treatment is the use of a PAP machine which will eliminate the apneas and result in weight loss.

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