How Obesity Interacts With Sleep Apnea?

suriya mir
4 min readJul 24, 2021


Obesity interacts with sleep apnea as it is a common risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a disrupted pattern of sleep. In obstructive sleep apnea, you’ll stop breathing. When this happens, you might make choking noises or will snore loudly. You wake up as your body and brain oxygen-deprived. You will probably find this happens once or twice a night. But, it may happen hundreds of times at night in severe cases. The result of that is daytime symptoms unable to stay awake, morning headaches sleepiness. In fact, many cases not even diagnose, and some people do have sleep apnea, but at the same time, they don’t realize it. 70% of obese people have sleep apnea, and it’s very prevalent in obese people.

It is essential to know what a person’s BMI is. Body mass index is a person’s mass or weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. The average BMI would be between 19 and 25 kg/m2. Obesity has to be BMI greater than 30kg/m2. This is important because some medical problems are related to obesity, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, heart attack, memory problem, and stroke. When BMI gets over 30 or 40 kg/m2, and is so prevalent in obese people. Sleep apnea is mostly affected by obesity.


  • Airways narrow
  • Decrease or stop breathing
  • Decrease oxygen
  • wake up briefly to restart breathing
  • Choking, gasping
  • unnoticed disrupt the quality of sleep

How Obesity Interacts With Sleep Apnea?

When a person is obese, soft tissues in the oral pharynx become bigger; also, fat deposits in the upper respiratory tract reduce muscle activity in that region and narrow the airway. The airway channels become even smaller, which leads to less air getting through the mouth and oral pharynx into the lungs, leading to decreased oxygen. When the blood oxygen level goes down, the brain sends a message that wakes you up and makes you breathe. It’s a brief wake-up and restart of breathing and leads to choking and grasping; it can be completely unnoticed at all so that a person does not get and stay into that deep sleep. That is how obesity interacts with sleep apnea.

As more obesity leads to more narrowing of the airway and more sleep apnea. Hence, it’s a very negative cycle of obesity. So, we have to try to break the cycle in one way is to lose weight. Individuals can take advantage of losing weight. Even a 10% weight reduction can lessen the number of apneic events in many patients. But, losing weight is difficult with untreated obstructive sleep apnea, increased appetite, and metabolism changes that may occur with obstructive sleep apnea.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

An assessment often involves overnight monitoring at a sleep center. Home sleep assessment additionally could be an option. Tests to identify sleep apnea consist of:

  • Home sleep tests

Your medical professional may offer you simplified tests to be used at home to diagnose sleep apnea. These tests usually measure your heart rate, blood oxygen level, breathing, and airflow patterns. If the results are abnormal, your medical professional could recommend a therapy without further testing. However, Portable monitoring devices do not detect all cases of sleep apnea, but so that your doctor might still need polysomnography even though your initial results are normal.

Nocturnal polysomnography: In this test, you are connected with equipment to monitor your brain and lung activity, blood oxygen levels, arm, and leg movements, breathing patterns while you sleep.

  • EEG(electroencephalogram): to record and measure brain wave activity.
  • EKG(electrocardiogram): to read heart rate and rhythm
  • Snore microphone: records snoring activity
  • EMG(electromyogram): to record facial muscle activity, teeth grinding, twitches, and movements in the leg and look for REM stage sleep. As REM sleep, intense dreams often happen as brain activity increased.
  • Nasal airflow sensor: records airflow


  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

One of the primary treatments is Continuous positive airway pressure CPAP. When you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, you could reap the benefits of using a device that delivers air pressure via a mask. With (CPAP), you wear a mask covering your nose as you sleep. The mask is installed on a device that provides constant airflow to maintain your airways open to help you breathe the way you should. Furthermore, CPAP is considered the most common treatment plan for obstructive sleep apnea. Bilevel positive airway pressure also (BiPAP) resembles CPAP. However, the airflow changes once you inhale in and out.

Other Treatment includes:

  • avoid alcohol, sedatives
  • improve sleep hygiene
  • treat nasal polyps, rhinitis, septal deviation
  • oral appliances: move tongue/jaw forward
  • supplemental oxygen
  • change sleep position: You may breathe more accessible if you stay off your back.
  • Diet
  • exercise
  • habit control

Surgical Treatment