Lose Weight, Sleep Great

Sleep apnea symptoms improved with minor weight loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Sleep apnea is more common among people who are obese. So, one new study looked at how weight loss might help people with this condition.

This new study showed that even a moderate weight loss may slow the long-term progression of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

"Talk with your doctor about safe ways to lose weight."

This study was led by Henri Tuomilehto, MD, PhD, of the Oivauni Sleep Clinic and Department of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Eastern Finland.

The study followed 57 obese patients who were diagnosed with mild OSA for five years.

The study was conducted in Kuopio University Hospital in Finland between 2004 and 2013 to see if moderate weight loss — around 5 percent of body weight — would have a positive effect on patients' OSA.

Dr. Tuomilehto and team placed patients into two groups — the first group received a 12-month supervised lifestyle intervention program, while the second group received the standard care of verbal and written information about diet and physical activity.

The research team followed up with each patient after five years and broke the existing groups into two more groups: a successful group in which the patients had lost at least 5 percent of their body weight and an unsuccessful group that had failed to lose at least 5 percent of body weight.

The researchers used the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) to measure the level of each patient’s sleep apnea. The apnea-hypopnea index breaks severity of OSA into four levels, from no sleep apnea to severe sleep apnea.

The data showed that 50 percent of patients in the successful group were free of mild OSA, compared to 11 percent of the unsuccessful group.

Two participants in the successful group had worsened from mild to moderate OSA. 

The researchers found that 13 of the patients in the unsuccessful group had progressed from mild to medium OSA and two had gone from mild to severe.

The data also showed that 65 percent of the successful group, having lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, were originally in the group that received a lifestyle intervention.

The researchers noted that OSA may worsen with time, putting individuals diagnosed with mild OSA at risk for more severe OSA.

This study demonstrated for the first time that a sustained weight loss of just 5 percent may be enough to prevent the disease from becoming more severe, and in some cases, may cure it altogether.

The authors note that the study was limited to patients with mild OSA, and the results may not apply to patients with more advanced OSA.

This study was published February 11 in Sleep Medicine.

The study was funded by the Hospital District of Northern Savo.

The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 12, 2014
Last Updated:
February 12, 2014