Treating Sleep Apnea with Bariatric Surgery

Dr. Samuel Bledsoe, bariatric and general surgeon

Snoring can lead to a night of tossing, turning and a very annoyed bed mate. It can even be portrayed as comical. However, it’s no laughing matter. It could be one sign of a much bigger health issue: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA, which affects approximately 1 in 12 Americans, occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the flow of air into the lungs, which causes you to repeatedly stop and start breathing while you sleep. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have OSA.

OSA and Obesity Connection

OSA and obesity have a strong connection. As many as 80 percent of patients with OSA are also considered obese. The incidence of OSA is up to 30 times greater in the presence of severe obesity compared to a person of normal weight. This correlation is due to the anatomical changes that occur as a result of weight gain, explains Dr. Samuel Bledsoe, bariatric and general surgeon, and director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Arkansas Heart Hospital.

“Obesity increases the fatty deposits in the neck and throat causing these tissues to obstruct and narrow the airway during sleep,” Bledsoe said. “People suffering from OSA often snore due to the airway obstruction and suffer from excessive sleepiness during the daytime due to poor sleep at night.”

Bariatric Surgery Most Effective Treatment for OSA

Historically, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) was considered the most reliable treatment for OSA. With CPAP, a mask fits over the mouth and nose while air blows into the upper airway preventing a collapse of the tissues. Unfortunately, less than 50% of patients use the CPAP nightly, because the mask can be uncomfortable and cumbersome.

CPAP does not provide a cure for sleep apnea, but a means of treating the condition making its symptoms easier to control. Bariatric surgery can do more than be a sleep apnea treatment – it can resolve OSA.

“Fortunately for patients who suffer from both sleep apnea and obesity, the significant weight loss that occurs with bariatric surgery can result in complete or partial resolution of OSA,” Bledsoe said. “The remission and improvement of OSA results in an improved quality of life by providing a more restful sleep at night and decreased daytime sleepiness. Bledsoe said. “And is a contributing factor for extended life expectancy in bariatric surgery patients, adding between five to ten years.”

BMI has seen bariatric surgery resolve OSA for hundreds of patients. If you’re ready to ditch the CPAP machine and sleep soundly again, gastric sleeve or gastric bypass surgery may be right for you. Visit to begin your journey.