Are you desperate to lose weight and wonder why you can’t? Do you find the weight is piling on despite having committed every fad diet to memory?

If so, you’re not alone.

What you may not realise is that your attempts at weight loss are being sabotaged by sleep apnoea — a condition notorious for ruining not only sleep but waistlines too!

Below I’ll explore how sleep apnoea causes weight gain and what you can do about it.

Bad sleep vs weight gain — a daily struggle

If you suffer from sleep apnoea, remaining awake and alert becomes a daily challenge. You often find yourself fighting sleep as you attempt to carry out your daily routine.

Unfortunately not only do you have to deal with feeling constantly tired, poor quality sleep can actually make you gain weight. Even worse, losing those extra pounds becomes an almost impossible challenge.

Stress can cause a bad case of the munchies

When your sleep is continuously disturbed, your body is left in a constant state of stress. Unluckily for you, stress can leave you feeling fatigued and low on energy. This makes you hungry for foods that boost your energy in the shortest possible time — carbs, fatty foods and sweets. Delicious but also deadly if you are overweight!

Motivation killer

If you suffer from sleep apnoea, finding the motivation to exercise and burn off those excess calories is difficult. After all, if you are struggling to get out of bed in the morning and stay awake during the day, the chances of going for a walk or to the gym are pretty slim.

Unbalanced hormones

Sleep apnoea can also mess with the hormones that regulate your appetite. Leptin is a hormone that tells you to stop eating when you are full. Sleep apnoea causes your body to resist the leptin signal and without this important check on your appetite, you tend to eat too much.

CPAP to the rescue

A man sleeps soundly whilst using his CPAP machine

It’s easy to think things will never change — that you will always be overly tired and will never find the motivation to lose weight. Many of my patients tell me they feel hopeless about it all.

Fortunately sleep apnoea treatments like CPAP help you get the refreshing sleep you need and can actually make it easier to shed those excess pounds. That’s because:

  • You are more likely to make healthier food choices if you slept well the previous night.
  • Good quality sleep will give you the energy needed to do gentle exercise. It will also help you stay motivated.
  • CPAP can stabilise your leptin levels so you will feel full after a smaller portion of food.

And if CPAP doesn’t work?

While many people who use CPAP have been successful in losing weight, what if you still can’t? In this case, it’s time to seek professional advice.

For some people, a simple meal plan from a dietician does the trick. Other people may prefer to go to a weight loss group to swap tips and gain moral support. If you are over-eating due to emotional or psychological trauma, talking therapy such as counselling may help.

And if you are very obese and have exhausted all possible weight loss strategies, you could be offered medication or surgery to help shed the excess weight.

A battle worth fighting

As you can see it is all too easy to gain weight if you have sleep apnoea. This is not only bad for your health, it actually makes your sleep apnoea worse. And from my experience working in sleep labs, losing excess weight can often mean you no longer require CPAP.

Losing weight is one of the hardest tasks anyone can undertake and is even more challenging if you have sleep apnoea.

Are you struggling to slim down or have you been successful in reaching your ideal weight? We would love to hear your story in the comments section below.

One comment

  1. Tom on

    So what you’re basically saying is that my ever-growing waistline has nothing to do with my cake habit and is in fact just my sleep apnea? Ha, you learn something new everyday 🙂

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