Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic, Sandyford, Dublin, D18 E7P4 l Tel: +353 1 531 0088

Can losing weight help people with sleep apnea?

Most research has shown that maintaining a moderate weight correlates with an improvement in sleep apnea. In fact, the link is so robust that many doctors recommend people with sleep apnea maintain a moderate weight.

The above information comes from a 2020 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when something obstructs the airways. Approximately 41% of obstructive sleep apnea cases in adults have links to excess weight. This may be because having too much soft tissue, such as tongue fat, in the airway can cause obstructions.


How weight affects sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea involves the partial or complete collapse of the airway, reducing oxygen levels and disrupting sleep.

It occurs due to two factors affecting the airway: insufficient space for airflow and low muscle tone.

People with obesity may experience one or both of these issues. They can have fatty deposits in the upper respiratory tract, narrowing the airway and making it harder to breathe. Having too little muscle activity can also reduce muscle tone.

Research has shown a direct link between weight and sleep apnea. An 11-year prospective cohort study from 2000 found that weight changes had links to changes in disordered sleep breathing.

Weight Loss & Sleep Apnea 

Plenty of research has shown a link between weight and sleep apnea, but they have not discovered why. Research from 2019 investigated the exact mechanism underlying how weight loss alleviates sleep apnea.

It found that weight loss led to a reduction of fat in the abdomen and tongue. It also reduced the size of soft tissues in the upper airway.

However, the authors determined that decreased tongue fat was the primary contributor to reducing sleep apnea symptoms.

It is also important to note that the amount of weight loss may be proportional to the changes in their sleep apnea. Despite this, research strongly recommended weight loss for all people with sleep apnea, regardless of the severity or adherence to other treatments.


Risks & Considerations 

While doctors advise people with sleep apnea to maintain a moderate weight, it is important to do so carefully and safely. Losing weight can be difficult, and it is a long-term process involving small, sustainable lifestyle changes.

Get expert advice on diet

A person should contact a doctor before starting a new diet, especially if they have preexisting health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

Programs that offer frequent appointments with a weight loss specialist and long-term follow-up visits have associations with better weight outcomes. If a person is considering maintaining a moderate weight, they can consult a doctor about programs and support groups.

Avoid crash or overly restrictive diets

Doctors do not recommend fad or crash diets that severely restrict calories, nor do they endorse skipping meals. Instead, they advise setting a modest goal of losing 1–2 pounds per week.

Choose a nutritious diet

Some trendy fad diets, such as the keto diet, promise quick results without hunger. However, scientists have not proven the efficacy and long-term safety of this approach.

It may be suitable to try a nutritious, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Because it is not realistic to drastically change a person’s eating plan overnight, experts usually recommend making small, gradual changes. This may mean adding in an extra serving of vegetables every day, swapping white carbs for whole grains, and making an effort to eat sufficient protein.

Over time, these small changes can yield long lasting results.


Here are some common questions and answers regarding sleep apnea and weight loss.

Can maintaining a moderate weight cure my sleep apnea?

It depends. An ongoing clinical trial states that early weight loss may cure mild sleep apnea. Other research states that weight loss can often reduce the severity of a person’s sleep apnea, but it does not cure the condition by itself.

Is it harder for people with sleep apnea to lose weight?

According to an older study from 2014, sleep apnea may predispose a person to obesity. This is because reduced quality sleep has links to higher rates of weight gain.

How much should I lose?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. While losing 5–10% of body weight may help, a doctor may advise a different amount according to a person’s starting weight and co-occurring conditions.


About Dental Sleep Medicine at The Beacon Dental Clinic

As director of the Beacon Dental Group Dr Edward G Owens is a hospital affiliated Prosthodontist. He has been working successfully with oral appliances to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea since 1997.

He collaborates with major hospital sleep disorder clinics and has been active in the management of oral sleep appliances and the development of Dental Sleep Medicine in Ireland.


Dr Ed Owens is one of a very small number of dentists qualified with recognised expertise in assessing and treating patients with Sleep Disordered breathing in Ireland. He is certified by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine as having undergone specialist education and qualification to best manage patients with a range of Sleep Disordered Breathing presentations and guide them into their optimal sleep, with the use of an individualised oral device.

Dr Owens works with physicians and surgeons in the recognised leading centres of established expertise in Sleep Medicine in Ireland, including St Vincent’s University Hospital, The Mater University Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, St James Hospital, The Beacon Hospital and the Hermitage Clinic, amongst many other hospitals around the country.

He has been working with a wide range of patients presenting with a range of Sleep Disordered Breathing presentations successfully for over 20 years. Many patients have been successfully treated by oral appliance therapy and enjoyed the benefits of enhanced sleep, which in turn results in a measurable improvement in sleep quality through Sleep Studies and their overall general health.

Good quality sleep is responsible for a variety of measurable patient benefits including mood, enhanced daytime energy, the control and enhancement of cardiac and respiratory health, amongst many other health benefits. All these benefits are measurable and have been shown to increase overall general health in many studies and published papers.

Spousal or sleeping partner disturbance and anxiety is often a factor in someone presenting for assistance in the management of Sleep Disordered Breathing. Patients making respiratory noise at night, snoring and/or appearing to gasp for air on occasion during the night as observed by a partner, is often the trigger to seeking help.

We encourage patient partners to attend as this often helps through a more detailed understanding, to reduce anxiety, which may sometimes be experienced around Sleep Disordered Breathing conditions.


For further information on Sleep Apnoea Treatment, contact us today 



Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic is based in the Beacon Dental Clinic, Beacon Consultants Clinic, Dublin, D18 E7P4, Ireland

Tel: +353 1 531 0088 | Fax: +353 1 213 5645 | Email:




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