CPAP Diet: The link between CPAP and weight loss
Published on August 29, 2022
If you are wondering whether using a CPAP can help you lose weight, then you are not alone. The link between sleeping well and weight loss has long captivated both sleep professionals and CPAP users.
With the end of a delicious holiday season and the start of a new year, we decided to dig deeper into this long standing debate for the answer: does using CPAP help with weight loss?
How untreated sleep apnea affects weight
It’s a fact: obesity increases a person’s risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Excess weight around the neck can constrict a person’s airway, making it difficult to breathe properly while sleeping.
Obstructive sleep apnea may also cause feelings of hunger due to hormonal imbalances. Studies associate sleep apnea with above-normal levels of ghrelin, a hormone which signals to your brain that you are hungry and should eat, and below-normal levels of leptin, a hormone which signals to your brain that you are full and shouldn’t eat. These imbalances can lead to an overall increase in caloric consumption.
Untreated sleep apnea can also reduce time spent in calorie-burning activities. Feeling low energy, tired, and unfocused are sleep apnea symptoms that make it hard to participate in daily activities such as walking the dog, mowing the lawn or pushing a shopping cart.
To put it simply, people whose untreated sleep apnea causes them to eat more and burn less energy may see gradual weight gain that can be associated with the condition.
The link between CPAP and weight loss
An interesting study published by the New England Journal of Medicine used real and sham CPAP therapies to study how CPAP therapy affects weight and abdominal circumference (sham is still CPAP but at a value too low to control an apnea).
The study randomly assigned 86 CPAP users to 3 months of CPAP therapy followed by 3 months of sham CPAP therapy, or vice versa. The results showed a significant BMI decrease in CPAP users compared with sham therapy users and a reversal of metabolic syndrome among some users.1
CPAP treatment (vs. sham CPAP) was also associated with small but clinically significant mean decreases in blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride (fats that get stored in your cells) levels.
Can effective CPAP Therapy cause weight loss in people with sleep apnea?
Experts agree that CPAP therapy can improve your sleep and overall well-being, as well as help you lose weight. By improving your sleep quality, CPAP can lead to significant weight loss in the first 3 months of therapy in obese people with severe sleep apnea.2
Weight gain after starting CPAP therapy
Sleep is one in many factors that can affect your weight, so do not be discouraged if your weight doesn’t change after starting CPAP therapy, or if you gain some. Individual results can be as unique as the number of people on therapy.
Whether you lose or gain weight, the health benefits of sleeping well enabled by your CPAP therapy are proven. If you do experience a weight gain, speak with your doctor about it.
Sharma, Surendra K, et al. “CPAP for the Metabolic Syndrome in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 15 Dec. 2011, https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1103944?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_…
Rishi, Muhammad Adeel MD et al. Effect of Positive Airway Pressure Therapy on Body Mass Index in Obese Patients With Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome: A Prospective Study. American Journal of Therapeutics: March/April 2016 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p e422–e428