Getting a Better Night's Rest: Weight Loss Surgery and Sleep Apnea
Sleep – It’s what we all crave after a long day at work, look forward to a little extra on the weekends and something we all don’t get enough of. A good night’s rest is important to staying awake and energized throughout the day, however, sleep apnea, a condition facing many bariatric patients, can be a health concern as well as make it difficult to get some very needed shuteye.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a comorbidity of obesity, affecting between 38% to 88% of patients suffering from obesity, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. [A comorbidity is the existence of one disease due to the presence of another like obesity.] Often in obese individuals OSA is related to the excess soft tissue around the mouth and throat causing a blockage for air to pass through, especially when the body is in a relaxed stage of sleep. The inability to breathe normally while sleeping can result in snoring and daytime drowsiness, two common symptoms of the condition, and in more severe cases intermittent pauses in breathing while asleep and waking up choking or gasping for air. OSA can also lead to stress on the heart contributing to arrhythmia and poor oxygenation. Patients who experience poor deep sleep (REM sleep) lack energy and motivation throughout the day to stay on healthy diet or exercise, leading them to eat more during the day, potentially causing more weight gain.
For many of our patients diagnosed with OSA, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is prescribed to help them breathe easier while sleeping. While the CPAP machine is effective, the oxygen mask that is required to be worn while sleeping can be bothersome and uncomfortable for individuals. The alternative for many obese patients living with sleep apnea is weight loss surgery, considered the most effective in long-term resolution of obesity-related sleep apnea. According to a 2013 study published in the Obesity Surgery Journal*, in a total of 69 studies with 13,900 bariatric patients, 75 percent saw significantly large improvements in their OSA post-surgery. When the weight is lost, whether through bariatric surgery or medical weight loss, it can result in less fat and pressure on important parts of the body that can now relax during sleep and more space for oxygen to reach airways.
For people suffering from obesity-related OSA, bariatric surgery - whether gastric sleeve or gastric bypass – is a tool for weight loss and health gains, as well as an effective treatment option for OSA. With less of a chance for airways to be blocked, patients can enjoy a good night’s rest while continuing on their journey to reaching their ultimate health and weight loss goals.
If you think you may have sleep apnea related to your weight/obesity, come see one of our board-certified surgeons at New Jersey Bariatric Center for an evaluation.
* Sarkhosh, Kourosh, et al. “The Impact of Bariatric Surgery on Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Systematic Review.” Obesity Surgery: The Journal of Metabolic Surgery and Allied Care, vol. 23, no. 3, Mar. 2013, pp. 414–423.
** Results may vary. Results depend on a variety of factors, including but not limited to adherence of post-operative guidelines.