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Which comes first, the apnea or the obesity? New research suggests a complicated link

Posted on July 14th, 2020

Obese patients with sleep apnea are often told their weight gain caused the disorder. However, this isn’t always helpful. Patients may feel ashamed, which can lead them to reject treatment because they blame themselves for their condition.

This is the last thing sleep apnea patients need. 

Plus, research is beginning to suggest that the link between obesity and apnea is more complicated. In fact, treating apnea may help promote weight loss in obese patients.

Research presented in March 2019 found that throughout a 4-month study, participants who complied with BPAP or CPAP therapy lost an average of 5.7 more pounds than those who did not. Researchers thought the improved sleep quality may have caused hormonal changes. And these hormonal changes may have promoted healthy weight loss when combined with diet and exercise.

This study is significant for people who suffer from sleep apnea and can’t seem to lose weight with diet and exercise alone. Proper sleep apnea treatment may allow them to lose weight and improve their blood sugar, blood pressure, and other symptoms.

Practitioners may want to use this information to encourage CPAP compliance. It can be hard to motivate people by pointing out long-term side effects. But many patients want to lose weight in the short term. And they may work harder at compliance so they can meet their weight-loss goals.

One good way to approach the issue without offending patients is through informational posters/flyers. The posters can contain messages like, “Did you know CPAP compliance can help you lose weight? Sleep breathing affects your hormones and how your body processes food!” By keeping the message positive, you can nudge your patients to make the connection. You can help them comply with their CPAP or BPAP plan, lose weight, and improve biomarkers.

If you’re interested in more ways that your practice can promote whole-body health by addressing patients’ sleep issues, consider taking one of Dr. Dassani’s sleep seminars. You’ll learn how to introduce sleep apnea identification and treatments into your practice so your patients can improve their health.

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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Healthy Sleep Revolution Podcast Cover

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