Can being overweight cause sleep apnea?

The most common cause of sleep apnea in adults is excess weight. 

There are a number of risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea, including anatomical features such as a narrow throat, thick neck and round head; hypothyroidism; allergies and a deviated septum that causes congestion in the airways. The most common cause of the disorder in adults, however, is excess weight and obesity. Read on to find out how being overweight can cause obstructive sleep apnea and how we may be able to help…

How does excess weight cause sleep apnea?

According to research, more than half of people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or obese. In fact, excess weight is the most common risk factor for developing the disorder. 

Excess weight and obesity affect the soft tissues of the mouth and throat. When the throat and tongue muscles are relaxed during sleep, excess soft tissue can cause the airways to become blocked. This causes disruptions to one’s breathing, as well as symptoms such as snoring. 

Another factor that can affect one’s breathing is an increased abdominal girth. Excess fat from the abdomen can compress the chest wall, thus decreasing lung volume and proper airflow. These factors make it more likely for the upper airway to collapse during sleep. 

What causes sleep apnea in children?

When it comes to children, there are a few possible causes of obstructive sleep apnea. Some of the most common causes include enlarged tonsils and adenoids, as well as certain orthodontic conditions such as an overbite. Childhood obesity can also lead to obstructive sleep apnea, although the connection is less common than in adults. 

How does sleep apnea impact your health?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disorder than can lead to a number of other health issues. The disorder can worsen high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease. Obstructive sleep apnea has also been linked to other health conditions, including adult asthma and acid reflux. 

It can also increase the chances of weight gain — sleep apnea can actually increase the body’s production of ghrelin (the hunger hormone). Feeling fatigued also makes it more difficult for the body to efficiently change food into energy, which can lead to weight gain over time. 

How can we help?

At Elite Dental of Staten Island, we provide a range of treatments to our patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. In the case of obese or overweight patients, we may recommend weight reduction. In fact, weight reduction is sometimes the only treatment that is required for obese patients and long-term results require behavior modification in order to maintain a reduced and stable body weight. Other lifestyle changes that we often recommend include smoking cessation, a reduction in the consumption of alcohol, avoiding heavy meals after 8pm, and limited use of sedatives and muscle relaxants. Sleep position training can also be helpful in many cases. 

Besides behavior modification, we also offer oral appliance therapy. To find out more about the treatments that we offer, please have a look here.

To make an appointment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We look forward to welcoming you to our practice and helping you to enjoy overall health and wellness.


In honor of Children's Dental Health Month, we're hosting an exciting event about myofunctional therapy, and how your child's breathing could affect their health for the rest of their life. This event will take place at our office on Monday February 26 from 4.30pm
Thanks to environmental changes, children are now being born, and growing up to adulthood with malformed airways and jaws.
Elite dental
Get more information about myofunctional therapy
for your child
Learn how you can help your child!
Check your inbox for an email from us!
Thanks to environmental changes, children are now being born, and growing up to adulthood with malformed airways and jaws.
Elite dental
Get more information about myofunctional therapy
for your child
Learn how you can help your child!
Check your inbox for an email from us!
Elite dental