Weight loss reduces obstructive sleep apnoea in obese men, with the greatest effect seen in patients with severe disease, according to new research published on bmj.com today.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder characterised by pauses in breathing during sleep. Each episode (apnoea) lasts for at least 10 seconds and is caused by the collapse of the upper airways during sleep.
Moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnoea (defined as 15 or more apnoeas per hour) carries an excess risk of motor vehicle crashes, heart disease and death. Yet only one study has examined the effects of weight loss on obstructive sleep apnoea.
The study involved 63 obese men (BMI 30-40) aged 30-65 years with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea who were being treated with continuous positive airway pressure (a mask designed to help breathing during sleep).
Treatment with a low energy diet improves obstructive sleep apnoea in obese men, with the greatest effect in patients with severe disease, conclude the authors. Long term treatment studies are needed to validate weight loss as a primary treatment strategy for obstructive sleep apnoea.
This trial shows that it is possible to help patients with this condition lose weight through lifestyle modification, and that doing this has a good chance of reducing the severity of their disease below the level of harm, say two researchers in an accompanying editorial.
Well designed clinical trials are now needed to convince policy makers, patients, and practising clinicians of the long term usefulness of these tailored approaches, they write.