If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you are probably using a CPAP machine and headgear, like the one shown here. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure.
The CPAP machine is connected by a long flexible hose to headgear or face mask which you wear every night, all night, while you sleep. A continuous flow of air keeps the airway in your throat open so that breathing is not obstructed during sleep.
Although patients of any size and weight can be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, obese adults are the most frequently diagnosed. In particular, those with excess tissue/fat at the face and neck.
CPAP can be life-saving, and improve the general health and well-being of apnea patients. CPAP can dramatically improve the quality of sleep, increase energy levels, reduce mental and physical fatigue during the day, improve blood pressure and cardiac function, and provide relief for persons whose sleep study showed that they stopped breathing several times every night.
Some patients (I am an example) are able to liberate themselves from the condition of sleep apnea and their CPAP machines with a certain amount of weight loss. This article advocates for that outcome.
If you are overweight and have obstructive sleep apnea, and do not want to spend a lifetime being attached to a machine at night, this article is worth a read.
Understand that CPAP is Often Medically Necessary
Sleep apnea is sometimes called a 'silent killer', because people can and do die from it, while asleep. Although fatal consequences are uncommon, apnea left untreated can cause high blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. CPAP can be life-saving, and can improve the general health and well-being of apnea patients. Follow your doctor's advice and use it until you are certain it is no longer needed.
CPAP is the Gold Standard but there are Other Treatments as Well
Surgery is one option; removing or reducing the obstructive tissue can help many, but the success rate is said to be 30%. Sleeping with oral devices (in the mouth, to move the lower jaw forward) is another approach.
Quitting smoking and/or alcohol can also eliminate Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Smoking causes inflammation of the airway tissues which in turn causes narrowing. Alcohol is a depressant which causes the muscles and tissues of the airway to relax and flutter closed. Ceasing these activities can help some cases of sleep apnea.
Weight Loss Can Cure Sleep Apnea in Many Patients
I know this first-hand -- I liberated myself from CPAP with a medically supervised weight loss program. There is also medical research to support this approach. The Archives of Internal Medicine reported recently that patients who lost 24 pounds on average (or 10 percent of their body weight), were three times more likely to eliminate their apnea.
Obese adults are frequently diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, and in particular, those with excess tissue/weight at the face and neck.
Motivate Yourself by Focusing on the Benefits of Not Needing CPAP
Liberating yourself from CPAP with weight loss offers so many personal comfort benefits:
- the security that comes from knowing you are no longer snoring or stopping breathing while asleep,
- the freedom to feel your face against your pillow at night instead of a mask and tubing and the ability to move without being tethered to a machine,
- relief from the sounds of the CPAP and the 'leaking' noise when the mask lets air out during the night, needing adjustment,
- relief from the constraint and discomfort of having to wear CPAP headgear, no matter how well fitted or 'comfortable' it is said to be,
- one less piece of equipment and carrying case to take when you travel,
- impromptu naps without 'hooking up to your CPAP', and
- more amorous time without postponing or removing your mask and turning off your machine.
Once you lose some weight and confirm that you can/do sleep normally without it, you should consider keeping the mask where you can see it (like in a night stand drawer) as a good reminder to keep the weight off. There are so many health benefits of regular exercise and a good diet. Lapsing into weight gain, for many people would mean needing CPAP again.
Talk to your doctor first if you have any questions or doubt that you no longer need the CPAP If you are unable to shed the weight that causes/contributes to obstructive sleep apnea, use your CPAP to protect your health and well-being or explore other alternatives, some of which are mentioned in Step 2.