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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

People who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have periods of sleep that are interrupted by apneas, or pauses in breathing. The causes of this are as varied as the patients who have it, but there is a definite link between sleep apnea and having extra body fat. Physicians are positive that this link exists, because when patients with sleep apnea lose weight, their sleep apnea improves.

In addition, some patients with obesity can develop a very rare form of sleep apnea called the obesity hypoventilation syndrome. These patients also have poor breathing while awake, which causes them to have low oxygen and high carbon dioxide.

Risks of obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is dangerous because if untreated, it leads to high blood pressure and is associated with an increased chance of heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. Studies have shown that sleep apnea can decrease life expectancy by several years. In addition, people with untreated sleep apnea find their focus, concentration and organizational skills are reduced. Further, sleep apnea is linked to higher incidences of motor vehicle accidents due to decreased attention. 

Many sleep apnea sufferers complain of awakening from sleep with morning headaches, dry mouth, and fatigue or a feeling of sleepiness, regardless of how long they slept.

How much weight do I need to lose to improve my obstructive sleep apnea?

Many factors cause sleep apnea, a complicated condition with many variables. Only your doctor will really be able to give you a target number for how much weight you will need to lose to see an improvement in your obstructive sleep apnea and symptoms.

Can obstructive sleep apnea make it harder for me to lose weight?

Unfortunately, studies have shown that if you don’t get enough sleep at night, it is very hard to lose weight effectively. This is a classic chicken/egg relationship: if you don’t get enough rest, you can’t lose weight; if you don’t lose weight, you can’t get enough sleep.

The good news is that at Johns Hopkins, our weight loss specialists can consult with experienced sleep disorders specialists. Working together, they can design a sleep hygiene program that will help you get the rest you need so that you can lose weight. Coupled with an effective weight loss and exercise regimen, you should be able to find relief from both conditions. Learn more about our weight loss services.