RISE Sleep Tracker
One of Apple's Best Apps of 2024
★★★★★
(20,627)
TRY FREE

Does Ozempic Help Sleep Apnea? What We Know So Far

Ozempic and Wegovy may help you lose weight, which can improve sleep apnea, but more research is needed. Talk to your doctor to find out if it’s right for you.
Published
2023-03-17
Updated
2024-02-13
27 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
Learn more
Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Man injecting ozempic to help with sleep apnea

Does Ozempic Help Sleep Apnea? 

  • Ozempic may help sleep apnea as it can help you lose weight, and losing weight has been shown to improve sleep apnea symptoms. 
  • CPAP therapy is considered the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea, but managing sleep apnea often requires combining multiple treatment options. Ozempic, and other incretin-based pharmacotherapies (weight loss/diabetes drugs that work in a similar way) like tirzepatide, may be an effective part of that mix. Early studies are promising, but more research is needed.
  • Use the RISE app to get the best sleep and highest energy levels possible while you get treatment for sleep apnea.

Ozempic has taken the world by storm. What started as a diabetes medication is now a popular weight loss drug. 

It may also help sleep apnea, a condition linked with being overweight. CPAP therapy is usually the first-line treatment for sleep apnea, but Ozempic — and other weight loss drugs — may have a place as part of a mixed treatment plan. More research is needed.  

Below, we’ll dive into whether Ozempic can really help with sleep apnea, the other treatments that have more evidence behind them, and how the RISE app can help you improve your sleep and energy levels while you’re getting treatment for sleep apnea — whether that’s Ozempic or not.

Heads-up: Ozempic is still a relatively new drug. More research is needed on how it could help those with sleep apnea, and more studies are currently underway. We’ve rounded up what we know so far, and we’ll keep this post updated as more research comes out.

A quick explainer: Ozempic is one brand name for the drug semaglutide. Other versions of the medication include Wegovy, a higher dose, and Rybelsus, a tablet formulation.

Semaglutide belongs to a class of medications called glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs). Other GLP-1RAs, like liraglutide, have been studied as sleep apnea treatments.

There’s also tirzepetide — the active ingredient in Mounjaro and Zepbound. Tirzepetide is a dual-acting GLP-1RA and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptor agonist, or GLP-1/GIP receptor agonist. This, too, may help sleep apnea via weight loss, but more research is needed.

Advice From a Sleep Doctor

Advice From a Sleep Doctor

“There’s some promising research on Ozempic as a treatment for sleep apnea, but this research is still very new,” says Rise Science sleep advisor and medical reviewer, Dr. Chester Wu, a double board certified doctor in psychiatry and sleep medicine.

“While I’ve not prescribed Ozempic yet, I have recommended people consult with their PCP or endocrinologist to find out if Ozempic could be right for them. In the future I may prescribe it for my own patients. Speak with your doctor to find out if it’s right for you.”

Does Ozempic Help with Sleep Apnea?

Ozempic may help reduce sleep apnea symptoms primarily through weight loss, with emerging evidence suggesting additional improvements in sleep independent of losing weight. However, the current quality of evidence is low, and long-term use might be necessary to maintain benefits, as weight regain is possible after discontinuing the drug.

Here are those key points we’ll go through below: 

  • Ozempic can help you lose weight, and losing weight can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms. There’s evidence supporting both of these independently. The research we have so far suggests this is the main way Ozempic can help with sleep apnea.
  • Ozempic may improve sleep apnea independent of weight loss as the GLP-1 hormone (which Ozempic and similar drugs mimic) is linked to sleep apnea severity. There’s also emerging evidence to suggest Ozempic may improve sleep in other ways.
  • Ozempic isn’t the only drug of its kind shown to improve sleep apnea. Other incretin-based drugs show promise. Tirzepatide, for example, may be more effective for weight loss and therefore more effective in treating sleep apnea. But more research is needed to know for sure.
  • Some researchers say the quality of evidence we have to date is low for GLP-1RAs as a treatment for sleep apnea. There isn’t much research on them, and the studies we have come with a few problems. 
  • If GLP-1RAs help sleep apnea, you may have to take them for life as the evidence we have so far suggests you may regain much of the weight you’ve lost when you come off the drugs. That being said, other sleep apnea treatments, like CPAP machines and oral appliances, also require long-term use, while surgeries to lose weight or remove soft tissue from the back of the mouth, soft palate, or throat, for example, are permanent. 

{{ cta }}

Weight Loss Can Help Sleep Apnea 

Obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea: the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to develop sleep apnea and the worse the condition can be. 

Fat can build up in the airways, making them more prone to collapsing during the night and cutting off your breathing. Fat can also build up in the tongue and make it more likely to fall and block your airways. And abdominal fat may put pressure on the chest wall and decrease airway size, making sleep apnea more likely.  

Weight loss is an effective treatment for sleep apnea. It may not get rid of the disorder altogether, but it has been shown to reduce the symptoms. One study found when obese adults went through a two-year weight reduction program, they lost weight and saw a reduction in sleep apnea events.

But weight loss is hard at the best of times and weight is easy to regain. And both circumstances are more likely when sleep apnea is messing with your sleep and weight management efforts. 

Want to dive deeper? We’ve covered more on sleep apnea and weight gain here. 

Ozempic Can Help You Lose Weight

Ozempic — and other semaglutide drugs like Wegovy and Rybelsus — could help with sleep apnea as they help you lose weight in a way that’s easier, more predictable, and more effective than other weight loss methods. 

Ozempic can help users lose significant amounts of weight, too. And larger weight losses, such as 10% or more of your body weight, can lead to greater improvements in sleep apnea symptoms. 

Tirzepatide drugs may have the same effect, and they can be even more effective for weight loss. There’s currently a randomized controlled trial on tirzepatide as a potential treatment for sleep apnea. 

The GLP-1 Hormone is Linked to Sleep Apnea Severity 

Glucose-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a hormone in the intestines, regulates glucose levels and is impacted by sleep apnea. 

Research shows that increasing sleep apnea severity correlates with a diminished GLP-1 response to glucose, suggesting that enhancing GLP-1 levels might benefit those with severe sleep apnea and abnormal glucose tolerance. 

GLP-1 receptor agonists, such as Ozempic and Wegovy, which mimic GLP-1, show potential as sleep apnea treatments, although further research is needed. 

Sleep apnea can also disrupt GLP-1 levels, as sleep loss delays GLP-1 peak release, potentially affecting blood sugar regulation post-meals. If you have sleep apnea, there’s a good chance you’re sleep deprived.

And GLP-1 runs on a circadian rhythm, peaking midday, and irregular sleep patterns, often a consequence or cause of sleep apnea, may further disrupt this hormonal balance.

Ozempic May Improve Your Sleep in Other Ways 

Ozempic and other semaglutide drugs or tirzepatide drugs may improve your sleep outside of sleep apnea. They can help with obesity and diabetes — both of which are linked to sleep disturbances beyond sleep apnea. 

The healthy diet and exercise changes you’re encouraged to make on Ozempic can help you sleep better, and the drug may reduce your cravings for alcohol and cigarettes. Cutting down on these can help sleep, too. 

Plus, a 2023 study found social media reports of Ozempic improving insomnia for some people, as well as improving anxiety and depression, which can affect sleep. 

The better your sleep, the easier you might find it to lose weight, which, in turn, may improve sleep apnea. Plus, the better your sleep, the better your energy, mood, focus, and health will be — even if you’re battling sleep apnea. 

But Ozempic may also make your sleep worse by causing side effects like GI issues and anxiety, as well as daytime fatigue. 

Ozempic May Help Sleep Apnea

There’s limited research on the benefits of Ozempic and other incretin-based drugs for sleep apnea but here are some of the key findings so far:

  • GLP-1RAs can help individuals with sleep apnea lose weight: A 2023 study found a weekly 2.4-milligram semaglutide injection helped overweight and obese participants with at least one weight-related comorbidity — such as sleep apnea — lose significant amounts of weight. 
  • GLP-1RAs can reduce nighttime breathing events: One study saw patients with sleep apnea take a daily dose of a GLP-1RA for four weeks. At the end of the experiment, 70% saw their apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which is a measure of how many sleep apnea episodes you get per hour of sleep, reduced by 20 or so events an hour. There was no change in the control group who didn’t receive the drug. While promising, the study was small with only 27 participants.  
  • GLP-1RAs can reduce tongue fat: A 2021 study found semaglutide can reduce fat in the tongue, which may stop the tongue from blocking your airways at night and help those with obesity-related sleep apnea. But, once again, more research needs to be done. This study was small — only 25 participants this time — and it was done in obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome, so it’s not clear if the drug could have the same effect in those without the health condition. 
  • GLP-1RAs could be useful for mild sleep apnea alone, or severe sleep apnea with other treatments: Another 2023 paper states: “For some patients, particularly those with milder disease, weight loss with lifestyle measures and GLP-1 agonists may be the only treatment required.” It says for those with more severe sleep apnea, GLP-1RAs could be useful for those who can’t use devices like CPAP machines to manage sleep apnea.
  • GLP-1RAs could be useful for those with multiple conditions: A 2022 paper states that GLP-1RAs may help those with sleep apnea and other health issues (like obesity or type 2 diabetes) as the drug can help improve “obstructive sleep apnea-related apnea–hypopnea index (AHI), control diabetes without hypoglycemic risks, lower weight, blood pressure and lipids, and reduce subsequent risk of stroke and heart attack.” 
  • GLP-1RAs could lead to fewer drug interactions: GLP-1RAs can help treat multiple conditions at the same time. Those suffering from sleep apnea often have comorbidities, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and cardiovascular diseases. GLP-1RAs may help treat more than one of these health problems, meaning you don’t need to be on multiple medications, which comes with the risk of adverse drug interactions.
  • GLP-1RAs have potential, but more research is needed: A 2023 paper states medications like GLP-1RAs could become mainstays of sleep apnea treatment. It says these drugs could help those with severe sleep-disordered breathing, either alone or combined with other treatments. But it also says that more research is needed, including whether patients need to take these drugs indefinitely — as regaining weight is common when you stop taking the drug. One of the study authors also serves on a scientific advisory board for Novo Nordisk, the company that manufactures Ozempic. 

Some Researchers Say the Quality of Evidence for GLP-RAs for Sleep Apnea is Low 

That all being said, a 2024 review only found nine studies with, what the research called, low-quality evidence showing GLP-1RAs could improve sleep apnea. 

While some studies in the review showed GLP-1RAs improved daytime sleepiness, there were a few problems. 

For example, sleep apnea wasn’t diagnosed with polysomnography (a sleep study), so it’s unclear if it really improved. Daytime sleepiness was self-rated and studies weren’t blinded (participants knew if they were taking the drug or not). This could cause inaccuracies and introduce recall bias, when participants don’t fully remember how they felt. Plus, studies were small and had short follow-up periods. 

The review also states that while there’s some evidence GLP-1RAs could help sleep apnea alongside CPAP therapy, these studies have similar problems — they’re small and have short follow-up periods. So, once again, more research is needed.

The review stated CPAP therapy may still be a more effective treatment for sleep apnea. It says CPAP machines are also more accessible, don’t require constant prescriptions (which come with the risk of drug shortages), and they don’t come with the gastrointestinal side effects that GLP1-RAs can cause. 

If It Does Help, You May Have to Take GLP-1 Receptor Agonists for Life

While there’s early promise GLP-1 receptor agonists may help sleep apnea, there’s indication it may not be a short-term treatment. You may have to take the drug for life for it to be effective.

A study published in 2021 looked at what happens when you stop taking semaglutide. Participants got a shot once a week for 20 weeks, then a portion of them were switched to a placebo, while the rest carried on having semaglutide injections for another 48 weeks. Lifestyle interventions (better diet and exercise) continued in both groups.

Those who stopped the treatment gained weight, whereas those who continued taking semaglutide lost weight. 

So, if the drug helps your sleep apnea because you’ve lost weight, you may have to continuously take it to prevent regaining the weight and reversing any sleep apnea improvements. 

It’s worth noting, however, that other sleep apnea treatments, like CPAP machines and oral appliances, also require long-term use, while surgeries to lose weight or remove soft tissue from the back of the mouth, soft palate, or throat, for example, are permanent. 

The Final Verdict?

GLP-1 receptor agonists, like Ozempic and Wegovy, may be able to help those with sleep apnea, especially those who are obese and need to lose weight to improve their symptoms. 

But before you rush off to get a prescription, there are a few more potential problems not highlighted by that 2024 review

  • More randomized clinical trials need to be done. Most studies look into a specific brand of drug, or a class of drug without mentioning the brand. This means, while there’s promise, we don’t know for sure if all incretin-based drugs could help sleep apnea. 
  • The studies we do have are often small, don’t run for a long period of time, or are done on populations with other health conditions, so larger, longer, and more population-specific studies are needed.
  • Studies showing semaglutide can help with weight loss include a calorie-restricted diet and exercise as well as taking the drug. So it’s not clear whether the drug could help those who don’t need to lose weight or those who don’t stick to these lifestyle changes. It’s also not clear what the best diet and exercise program is for those taking the drug.
  • More research is needed to see whether people accept injectable treatments over oral medications. One problem with CPAP machines is that many people struggle to keep using them as they find them uncomfortable or annoying. A once-a-week injection sounds easier than sleeping with a CPAP machine nightly, but people respond differently to different types of treatment. 

{{ cta-mini }}

How to Treat Sleep Apnea?

Treating sleep apnea usually requires combining multiple treatment options. Which ones are best for you will depend on how severe your condition is and whether you’re at risk of other problems like diabetes or heart disease. 

Treatments for sleep apnea include a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, weight loss, oral appliances, exercise, and lowering your sleep debt. Speak with your doctor to find the best sleep apnea treatment for you. They may recommend Ozempic or another incretin-based drug. 

We’ve covered how to get rid of sleep apnea in more detail here.

Here are some of the most proven sleep apnea treatments: 

1. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machines

This machine pushes air into your airways as you sleep to help keep them open. Different types of CPAP machines are available, including a full-face mask and nasal-only mask. 

2. Weight Loss 

One paper states that weight reduction is a “very effective treatment” for overweight patients with sleep apnea, and goes so far as to say that it should always be included in the treatment of the sleep disorder when sleep apnea is linked to excess weight.

3. Oral Appliances

These are specially fitted devices, similar to a retainer or mouth guard, that work by holding your tongue down or bringing your jaw forward to create more space in your airways. 

4. Exercise

Exercise can not only help you lose weight and fall asleep, one study found it was associated with a reduced incidence of mild and moderate sleep-disordered breathing. Decreasing exercise, on the other hand, was associated with worsening AHI scores. 

Intense physical activity close to bedtime can keep you up, though. We’ve covered the best time to work out here. The RISE app can tell you the exact time you should avoid working out to protect your much-needed sleep.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their avoid late workouts reminder here.

5. Lowering Your Sleep Debt

Sleep debt is the measure of how much sleep you’ve missed out on recently. It’s compared to how much sleep you need, also known as your sleep need. 

One small study found when participants only slept four hours a night for six nights they experienced more sleep apnea episodes. They also reported feeling more tired — unsurprisingly — and spent more time snoring during the night. 

The RISE app can tell you what your individual sleep need is and work out how much sleep debt you’re carrying. 

When we looked at the sleep needs of 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up, we found it ranged from five hours to 11 hours 30 minutes. But almost half needed eight hours or more sleep a night.

The RISE app can tell you how much sleep you need.
How much sleep RISE users need.

You can pay back sleep debt by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. 
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Keep this to an hour or two to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm, or body clock.
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Sleep hygiene can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night, helping you get more sleep in total. More on what to do soon.
RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep debt you have.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep need here and view their sleep debt here.

How to Get More Sleep When You Have Sleep Apnea?

Get more sleep when you have sleep apnea by improving your sleep hygiene. This is the set of daily behaviors that can help you fall and stay asleep. If sleep apnea is already disrupting your sleep, you don’t want factors you can control (like when you drink coffee or eat dinner) to cause any further sleep disruption. 

Getting enough sleep can help you feel better day to day, boost your weight loss efforts, and avoid worsening sleep apnea.

Here’s what to do: 

  • Get bright light first thing: Morning light resets your circadian rhythm for the day, making sure you feel sleepy come bedtime. Get at least 10 minutes of light as soon as possible after waking up. And make that 15 to 20 minutes if it's overcast or you’re getting light through a window.
  • Avoid light close to bedtime: Light is great in the morning and daytime, but not so much at night as it suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. Dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses 90 minutes before bed to stop this from happening. 
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, intense exercise, and alcohol too late in the day: All four can keep you up or wake you up during the night, but you don’t have to give them up altogether. RISE can tell you when to avoid each one daily. If you’re taking semaglutide drugs, your appetite may be reduced and you may not be eating as many large meals. But you should still keep an eye on the times you’re eating and avoid eating close to bedtime.
  • Do a calming bedtime routine: Whether you’re stressed about sleep apnea, weight loss, or just daily life, anxiety can keep you up long past bedtime. RISE users say stress and anxiety are their biggest challenges when it comes to sleep. Try doing a calming bedtime routine that involves relaxing activities like reading, listening to music, journaling, or doing yoga. RISE’s audio guides can walk you through relaxation techniques.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Set your thermostat to 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, use blackout curtains, and wear earplugs and an eye mask

The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day and tell you the ideal time to do each one to make them more effective.

The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications here

Talk to a Doctor About Whether Ozempic is the Best Sleep Apnea Treatment For You 

Incretin-based drugs like Ozempic show promise as a sleep apnea treatment as they can help obese people lose significant amounts of weight, and weight loss has been shown to improve sleep apnea. But the science proving they work and that they’re safe for those with the sleep disorder is still underway. 

Speak to your healthcare provider if you have sleep apnea to find the best treatment options for you. This may include medication, sleeping with a CPAP machine, or lifestyle interventions like losing weight through diet and exercise.

Keeping your sleep debt low can also reduce sleep apnea symptoms and improving your sleep hygiene can help you get the sleep and energy you need, whether you’re taking these drugs or not.

The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have and track it as you work to pay it back. RISE can also guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to help you fall and stay asleep each night, helping you make the most of the sleep you get with sleep apnea.  

Users say RISE helps them make the most of their sleep. 

“I’m sleeping better regardless of time asleep (we all know life happens) because it’ll give me notifications about when to stop drinking coffee and alcohol, and when my ideal time to go to bed is.” Read the review

And the app works fast too — 80% of RISE users feel more energy within five days.

FAQs

Sleep better. Sell more.

Learn more about Rise for sales teams.

Thanks! We received your information. You'll hear from us shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
About Rise
Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Sleep Hygiene

View all
Try 7 days free

The power behind your next best day

RISE makes it easy to improve your sleep and daily energy to reach your potential

RISE app iconApp store icon