Obesity can cause or aggravate many medical conditions. High blood pressure, diabetes, and orthopedic problems are among the best-known. Another potentially serious condition associated with obesity may be alleviated with surgery: sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is when a sleeping person has abnormal pauses in breathing or breathes very shallowly. The most common cause is when the soft tissue in the throat collapses when the muscles relax during sleep. This obstructs the airway, which makes it more difficult for the person to breathe and can also cause snoring. Obesity is one factor that often contributes to obstructive sleep apnea.
Treatments for sleep apnea can vary. Many patients are issued masks to wear during sleep; these are connected to an air pump that gently circulates air into the patient’s airway, making sure the throat stays open and breathing can proceed normally. Other treatments include medication and alternative methods. Surgery on the throat can also be performed.
If a patient who has sleep apnea is also obese, it is highly recommended that he or she lose weight. While obesity does not necessarily cause sleep apnea, like many disorders associated with obesity, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes, sleep apnea can be improved with weight loss.
In a 2004 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers found that 80.4% of gastric bypass patients and 94.6% of lap-band patients experienced resolution of sleep apnea after surgery. A recent review of gastric sleeve surgery found that 60% had their sleep apnea resolved. Patients should not expect a “cure” for sleep apnea after weight loss surgery, but many people see the symptoms of this potentially serious condition get significantly better regardless of which procedure they undergo.
Find out More
If you are concerned that you might have sleep apnea, it may be a good idea to go for a “sleep study,” in which practitioners monitor your sleep to see whether your breathing is adequate. If you would like to discuss the links between obesity and sleep apnea, please contact us at (800) 491-1977. We’d love to help you find a solution and sleep soundly at night.
 Buchwald H, Avidor Y, Braunwald E, et al. Bariatric surgery. A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2004;292:1724-1737.
 Brethauer SA, Hammel JP, Schauer PR. Systematic review of sleeve gastrectomy as staging and primary bariatric procedure. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2009;5:469-475