Weight loss surgery decisions are rarely only cosmetic-related. Some people who are considering bariatric surgery are experiencing serious medical problems connected to their excess weight. Obstructive Sleep Apnea/Apnoea (OSA) is often associated with obesity. This is a condition where you stop breathing during your sleep. It’s a pretty dangerous condition and can lead to reduced mental alertness on a daily basis, as well as increase your risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke or depression in the long term. Can sleep apnea be cured?

sleep apnea

We examine the causes of and treatments for this condition, and the efficacy of weight loss surgery as a treatment for OSA in many cases where excess weight is a factor.

This week is Sleep Awareness Week (3-9 July 2017). The Sleep Health Foundation is partnering with CRC for Alertness, Safety & Productivity to focus this year on Better sleep=smarter, safer workplaces. Chronic poor sleep can lead to driving and workplace accidents through drowsiness, as well as reduced productivity. Along with obesity, the rates of sleep disorders like sleep apnoea are increasing in our modern world. Insufficient sleep is now recognised as a public health problem that according to research by the Sleep Health Foundation, is costing Australia more than $5 billion per year.

What are the rates of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

It is estimated that approximately 9-21% of women and 24-31% of men experience some form of OSA. Studies show that the prevalence of OSA is “over double among the obese,” Sleep epidemiology–a rapidly growing field.

How does obesity cause sleep apnoea?

The Sleep Health Foundation explains why many with OSA are overweight:

“Being overweight can cause a narrowing of the throat due to fatty tissue. Also, having a large waistline can make the lungs smaller during the night, which makes the throat more likely to collapse.”

Can OSA be treated?

There are a number of ways you can treat OSA. In moderate to severe cases, this is absolutely essential to prevent further health complications. Two of the most common ways to treat OSA include:

  • A nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask which covers your nose and holds your throat open during the night while you sleep.
  • An oral appliance fitted by a specialist dentist.

Should these methods fail, there are also several surgical operations your specialist may offer you.

Can sleep apnea be cured?

Whilst therapies like CPAP or oral devices work well to treat OSA, they can’t cure it. Surgery for OSA addresses the underlying cause – either by removing excess tissue from the nose and throat, or weight loss surgery. Your decision to have surgery will depend on the severity of your OSA and its impact on your daily life and overall health. You can find out more about various surgeries for OSA on the Sleep Health Foundation website.

If you are obese, you may consider weight loss surgery. Weight loss has shown to improve OSA. As well, it can reduce other health problems you may be experiencing such as hypertension, diabetes, heart problems and more. The positive impact of bariatric surgery on OSA has been studied many times. In a recent abstract “The impact of bariatric surgery on obstructive sleep apnea: a systematic review” 69 studies of 13,900 bariatric patients was reviewed. The abstract concluded that over 75% of patients saw at least an improvement in their OSA.

Will weight loss surgery cure my OSA?

In cases where weight is the only underlying cause, weight loss through surgery can relieve OSA. Improvement in OSA symptoms is one of the first things many (but not all) of our bariatric patients notice in the weeks after surgery.

Despite the positive impact, we would generally advise patients to exercise caution with OSA therapies following weight loss surgery. They should continue to monitor their condition with their specialist. Other anatomical differences may also be contributing to OSA. In this case, whilst weight reduction would improve OSA, it may never reverse it completely, and you may still require your CPAP or oral appliance.

Sleep apnoea or sleep apnea?

The United States uses apnea, whilst the United Kingdom uses apnoea. In Australia, both spellings are used to describe the condition in various contexts.

For more information on sleep and your health visit the  Sleep Health Foundation website.

Are you curious about how weight loss surgery could change your life?

Weight loss can have positive results on your health and wellbeing. Visit our website to find out more about our procedures for patients across the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Coast region.