Obesity and the Negative Impact on Sleep

By: Dr. Alwyn Wong | Brain Function | Monday, November 19, 2012 - 11:31 AM

Link between Obesity and Sleep ProblemsIf you found out that those few extra pounds that you’ve been carrying around your waist could be one of the reasons for your suffering from tiredness and fatigue, would you be motivated to lose them?  Being overweight or obese can cause many health problems and new research shows that it may also cause sleep problems, including insomnia.   Sleep problems, including insomnia can lead to tiredness and fatigue.  Excessive tiredness and fatigue can negatively impact your personal and as well as your professional life.  It is therefore important to find a solution to sleep problems and excessive tiredness that you may be experiencing.  It turns out that losing a few pounds might be the answer.

The Link between Obesity and Sleep Problems

Previous research has shown that insomnia and other sleep problems can lead to weight gain.  Past research has shown that individuals that commonly have sleep problems, including insomnia, also have problems with controlling their weight.  Individuals who are overweight or obese are also more likely than non-overweight people to report that they are having sleep problems and are not getting a good nights’ sleep.  However, new research from John Hopkins University School of Medicine shows that the relationship between obesity and sleep problems may work both ways.

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New Research on Obesity and Sleep Problems

Researchers from John Hopkins University School of Medicine followed 77 participants who were overweight and who also had type II diabetes or pre-diabetes.  The researchers monitored the participants sleep quality and weight changes via surveys over a period of six months.  The participants filled out a survey at the beginning of the study which asked about their sleep problems including: sleep apnea, insomnia, disturbed sleep, excessive sleep and the use of sleeping aids.  Body mass index (BMI) was also tracked throughout the study to monitor weight changes. The participants were then divided into two groups – those that changed their diet and exercised to lose weight and those that only changed their diet. The results showed that both groups had weight loss averaging 6.8kg, with a reduction in belly fat of about 15%.  Furthermore, both groups also experienced improved sleep quality by approximately 20%. The researchers noted that overall body fat reduction was the key to improving sleep quality, in particular the loss of belly fat. The findings were the same whether the participants changed their diet and exercised or whether they just changed their diet.

Belly Fat and Sleep Problems

Belly fat is a major health concern for medical professionals.  According to Time, belly fat causes sleep problems because it increases inflammation, raises insulin resistance and decreases metabolism.  Belly fat produces proteins that lead to inflammation in the body.  Inflammation can increase your risk of heart disease because inflammation irritates blood vessels. Therefore, if you lose belly fat your body will decrease the production of inflammatory proteins leading to decreased inflammation in the body.  Another concern with belly fat according to Time is that it doesn’t allow the lungs to expand as freely as they should and you may experience difficulty breathing.  Difficulty breathing, particularly at night, may lead to sleep apnea.  Losing weight will not just decrease inflammation in the body; it will also improve your insulin resistance and increase your metabolism.

Weight Loss is the Key to Better Sleep

It is still not clear whether obesity leads to sleep problems or whether sleep problems lead to obesity.  However, it is clear that obesity and sleep problems are definitely linked.  In order to improve your sleep quality and prevent excessive tiredness and fatigue due to poor sleep quality, it is essential to maintain a healthy weight.  If you are on the heavier side, shedding excess pounds through diet and exercise changes may be just what you need to improve your sleep pattern and fight off the tiredness that you’ve been experiencing.  In addition to improved sleep, eating a healthy balanced diet and regularly exercising will provide you with multiple other health benefits which will lead to an overall healthier

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