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Drugs That Can Lead to Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Before diving into what drugs may contribute to sleep apnea, it’s important to clarify that the upcoming list of medications has not been shown to cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common of the three types of sleep apnea. However, these medications result in weight gain and some other symptoms tied to sleep apnea.

We encourage you to never stop taking medication until speaking to the prescribing physician. The information contained here is meant to show you that sleep apnea results from several factors—medication is just one of those many factors.

prednisone and other medications linked to sleep apnea

Keeping You Informed

As you read this article, remember that if you take any of these medications, you may want to ask to take an at-home sleep test with to find out if you have sleep apnea.

If your at-home sleep study indicates you have OSA, there are sleep apnea dentists who treat this very complex sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) in your area. Innovative sleep apnea treatment is highly effective, affordable, and easy to manage.

You may have heard of CPAP, which has always been the most successful method of treating sleep apnea. Still, Oral Appliance Therapy is proving to be hugely effective in reducing sleep apnea's dangerous signs and symptoms and providing people with the restful sleep they need and deserve. has several blogs and articles for you to read to learn more about the dangers of sleep apnea, the symptoms of sleep apnea, what can happen if left untreated, and why sleep apnea dentists treat sleep apnea instead of medical doctors.

The Physiology of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is mainly a structural problem related to narrow jaws and upper airways; however, having fat tissue in the throat from being overweight will exacerbate sleep apnea.

Here are some commonly prescribed prescription medications that can aggravate obstructive sleep apnea since one of their main side effects is weight gain:

  • Antidepressants: This group (especially tricyclic antidepressants TCAs) stimulates appetite, which causes people to eat more and gain weight. The newer class of antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), don’t generally cause weight gain. However, one common side effect of SSRI medications is that they suppress REM sleep (rapid eye movement).  Insufficient REM sleep results in nervous system excitability lowered pain thresholds, and problems with learning and memory.

  • Depakote (generic name, valproic acid) is a mood stabilizer prescribed to treat bipolar disease and seizures. It’s also used to prevent migraines. Studies indicate that 44% of women and 24% of men gain about 11 pounds on average over one year of taking this medication, which could lead to sleep apnea.

  • Prednisone: This drug is one of the most oft-prescribed medications in the United States; it is a corticosteroid prescribed to control inflammation. However, long-term prescriptions are given for asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune conditions. Research indicates that 70% of people on chronic steroid use reported significant weight gain; again, this, in turn, could lead to an increase in problems with sleep apnea.

  • Antihistamines: Some of the most popular brands you may know are Allegra and Zyrtec. Studies indicate that 55% of people taking these medications regularly are likely to be overweight compared to those not taking the medications.

  • Insulin: Insulin has been known to cause many who take it to gain weight, but most people who take it must have it to control their diabetes. If you are on insulin, you may want an at-home sleep study to see if you have OSA. emphasizes that no one should stop taking a doctor-prescribed medication without first speaking with a medical doctor. Sometimes, necessary drugs have unpleasant side effects. However, stopping the drug may be even more damaging, so if you’d like to know more about how these drugs affect your body, please talk to the prescribing physician.

Learn More About Sleep Apnea or Order Your At-Home Sleep Test Today

Many more medications are associated with weight gain and contribute to some of the other sleep apnea symptoms. Please contact today to order an at-home sleep study. We will connect you with highly trained sleep apnea dentists in your area who can help you get the effective sleep apnea treatment you need to feel better and get the restful sleep necessary to thrive. Please check out our online contact form.

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