Obesity And Sleep: Understanding Your Risks Based on Your Body Weight Update 06/2024

Traditional knowledge held that one’s weight is a direct result of one’s diet and exercise habits. However, we now know that there is more to weight gain than what we eat and how much exercise we get. Weight is influenced by genetics, socioeconomic position, community environment, stress, and overall health. Additionally, sleep deprivation is a risk factor for obesity, so how well or poorly you sleep might affect your weight growth or reduction.

People who are overweight are concerned that sleep loss can lead to weight increase, but being overweight can also lead to sleep disorders, which can in turn worsen biological processes that contribute to weight growth. Overweight and obese individuals are trapped in a vicious cycle, but there is hope for better sleep and the health consequences that come with it.

How Does Sleep Deprivation Lead to Weight Gain?

Overeating and weight gain are encouraged by a hormonal imbalance caused by sleep deprivation. While ghrelin and leptin regulate hunger, sleep deprivation alters the production of these hormones, which causes an increase in hunger pangs. Growth hormone insufficiency and higher cortisol levels have been related to obesity as a result of sleep loss. Insufficient sleep might also affect your body’s ability to digest food properly.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation has far-reaching consequences for weight gain that are not confined to alterations in the body’s chemical composition. It has been found that those who sleep less tend to eat more high-calorie items. Late-night calorie consumption might lead to weight gain. Adults who don’t get enough sleep also receive less exercise than those who do, which could be due to the fact that sleep deprivation makes them tired and sleepy during the day.

Childhood Obesity and Sleep

Children need more sleep than adults since their bodies and minds are developing at a rapid pace. Children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight and be obese. In fact, the same hormonal changes that lead to weight gain in adults may occur in youngsters who don’t get enough sleep. They may also feel more tired during the day, which could cause them to be less active.

Weight gain may also be influenced by bedtime. Researchers observed that youngsters who stayed up late had poorer nutritional quality and consumed less fruit and vegetables than those who went to bed earlier in the day.

Researchers have found that among children with obesity, those who sleep less and have irregular sleep cycles are at the greatest risk for health complications.

How Does Being Overweight Affect Sleep?

Obese people are more prone to suffer from insomnia or difficulty sleeping than their thinner counterparts. Overweight or obese individuals, even those who sleep soundly at night, may experience more daytime drowsiness and exhaustion, according to research. Obesity may alter metabolism and/or sleep-wake cycles, causing sleep quality to decline, according to researchers. Perhaps the physical implications of a person’s weight gain have an effect on their sleep.

What Sleep Concerns Are Common in People Who Are Overweight?

Sleep is affected by a wide range of health issues, some of which are more common in overweight or obese people. There are several situations that can exacerbate the effects of obesity-induced insomnia:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): In OSA, the airway partially or completely closes, resulting in loud snoring and breathing difficulties while sleeping. Obese people are seven times more likely to suffer from OSA. Obesity increases the severity of OSA symptoms as well as one’s likelihood of developing the condition.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): The condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one in which stomach acids flow into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and other unpleasant symptoms. It is well recognized that obesity is a risk factor for gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD symptoms may worsen while lying down, and sleep disturbances may be linked to the condition.
  • Depression: Depression and obesity have a symbiotic relationship, according to research. Obesity can induce or exacerbate depressive symptoms, whereas sadness can contribute to weight increase. In other words, Insomnia is a common problem for those with depression, and it occurs up to 75% of the time.
  • Asthma: Inflammation of the airways is the cause of asthma. Asthma and worsening of asthma symptoms are both made more likely by obesity. Asthma sufferers sometimes have trouble sleeping and staying asleep at night because of their symptoms.
  • Osteoarthritis: If you have osteoarthritis, you have worn down cartilage in your joints. Osteoarthritis can be caused by obesity because of the added strain on the joints that it causes. There may be a link between osteoarthritis and insomnia, with the three disorders aggravating one another in a vicious cycle.

How Can You Get Better Sleep When Overweight?

The word “sleep hygiene” refers to the practice of following habits and routines that promote restful sleep. For anyone, but especially for those who have difficulty sleeping, this is vital. Setting a regular sleep schedule, establishing a nightly ritual, and engaging in healthy practices throughout the day are all part of good sleep hygiene. Overweight people should take these actions into consideration:

  • Exercise: People who have trouble sleeping may find that exercising helps them get a better night’s rest. Patients with OSA can benefit from it as well, even if they don’t lose weight. In addition, exercising outdoors allows you to get a good night’s sleep because you are exposed to natural light.
  • Find a mattress that works for you: It’s critical that your mattress promotes good spinal alignment and equal pressure distribution between your body and the surface of the mattress. One person’s mattress preferences may be very different from another’s. Bodyweight has been found to influence the most comfortable mattress for some people, according to scientific research.
  • Select foods carefully: In addition to good sleep hygiene, good eating habits might be hampered by sleep deprivation. Eating a well-balanced diet can help you sleep better. Researchers have shown that a diet high in carbohydrates may reduce your capacity to fall asleep at night. Eating between 30 to 60 minutes of bedtime has been linked to poorer sleep patterns in another study,

Breaking the cycle of sleep deprivation and weight gain can be difficult. A doctor or sleep specialist should be seen if you are having problems sleeping because of your weight. Some patients, but not all, may benefit from a weight loss program. A medical practitioner may provide you specific advice on how to apply the methods we’ve discussed thus far, as well as make recommendations for other ways.

Waking Up to Sleep’s Role in Weight Control

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and your weight. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight and become obese than those who receive at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep may be a major factor in the obesity epidemic, given our society’s rising inclination to stay up late. In 1998, 35% of American adults got 8 hours of sleep each night; by 2005, that number had decreased to 26%.

According to the most recent results, sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of obesity in both children and adults, and this article quickly highlights these findings.

Sleep and Adult Obesity

Short sleep duration has been linked to obesity in most studies that look at people over a period of time (cross-sectional studies). However, longitudinal research can better answer issues regarding causation-and the results of such studies in adults have been less stable than those in children’s age ranges.

To date, the Nurses’ Health Investigation has been the largest and longest study of adult sleep habits and weight, monitoring over 68,000 American women in their mid-twenties for up to 16 years. Women who slept less than seven hours a night were 15 percent more likely to become fat throughout the trial than women who slept seven hours a night. Researchers in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study II examined the link between type 2 diabetes and obesity risk in a cohort of younger women who worked rotating night shifts, an irregular schedule that blends day and evening work with a few night hours. A woman’s risk of diabetes and obesity increases with the length of time she works a rotating night shift, according to the research.

In the United States and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom and Europe, other researchers have conducted smaller, shorter longitudinal studies on adult sleep habits and weight. Some researchers have established a link between obesity and a lack of sleep, while others have found no such connection. There are some intriguing studies in adults that show an increased risk of obesity is associated with obtaining too much sleep. Reverse causality, as academics term it, is most likely to blame for this. Obesity-related conditions, such as sleep apnea, obstructive lung disease, depression, or cancer, may be the cause of people’s unusually long slumbers, rather than the reverse, which is more likely.

The results of a pilot study could shed light on whether a longer night’s sleep aids in weight loss or not. Study participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: those who will receive coaching on how to extend their nightly sleep by at least half an hour to an hour or the other group that will keep their present sleeping patterns. For the duration of the trial, researchers will monitor participants’ sleep patterns and weight.

How Does Sleep Affect Body Weight?

Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain in multiple ways, including by increasing food intake or decreasing energy expenditure, according to researchers.

Sleep deprivation may lead to an increase in energy use.

  • Increasing hunger: Hormones that regulate hunger may be affected by sleep deprivation. Young males who were sleep-deprived had greater levels of the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin and lower levels of the satiation-inducing hormone leptin, which resulted in an increase in hunger and appetite, particularly for fat and carbohydrate-rich diets, according to one small study.
  • Giving people more time to eat: Because they have more time to eat when they are awake, those who sleep fewer hours per night tend to overeat. Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased desire to eat, particularly when people are awake for longer periods of time at night and are surrounded by food.
  • Prompting people to choose less healthy diets: No consistent link has been found in observational research between sleep and food preferences. However, a study of Japanese employees found that those who slept less than six hours a night were more likely than those who slept more than six hours to eat out, have irregular meal patterns, and snack.

Energy expenditure may be reduced by as much as 10% if you lack sleep.

  • Decreasing physical activity: Lack of sleep makes people wearier during the day, which may cause them to limit their exercise routines. It’s been shown that those who don’t get enough sleep have a tendency to spend more time on the couch watching television and less time participating in organized sports. To be sure, these variations in physical activity or television watching do not go far enough to account for the link between sleep and weight gain.
  • Lowering body temperature: People who are sleep-deprived in the lab have a decrease in their core body temperature. Energy expenditure may be reduced as a result of this decrease. But a new study found no correlation between the amount of time spent sleeping and the amount of energy expended.

How Sleep Loss Leads to Weight Gain

Sleep deprivation can affect your weight in a variety of ways.

Changes in appetite. Your appetite is controlled by two hormones in your body. Leptin is a hormone that lets your body know when you’ve had enough to eat. When it comes to letting your brain know that you’re starving, ghrelin plays an important role. Circadian rhythms play a role in the production of several hormones, and testosterone is no exception.

Leptin levels fall when you don’t get enough sleep. As a result, your brain tells you that you’re hungry, even though you don’t actually need to consume any calories. At the same time, your ghrelin levels rise, making you need food. When you’re starving, you’re more inclined to reach for a high-fat, high-calorie snack than a nutritious one. Reduce the amount of junk food in your home in order to prevent yourself from overeating. That way, you’ll be more likely to opt for healthier snacks. If it doesn’t work, try drinking a glass of water instead. When you’re starving, you may be more thirsty than you think. Snacks are on the way. The more time you have to eat when you’re awake, the better. The “fourth meal,” as it’s sometimes referred to, can result from this. More frequent snacking, even if it doesn’t go that far, can lead to weight gain because of the extra calories it contains.

Ask yourself if you’re really hungry before grabbing a quick snack. In the event that you’re unable to eat, attempt to sip some water or take a walk instead. Less activity. A lack of sleep makes it difficult to go for a stroll or to the gym, making it less likely that you will engage in physical activity. Even though it may be difficult to get started, attempt to get up and get moving. Regular physical activity not only aids in weight loss but can also aid in restful sleep. Don’t work out within a few hours of going to bed if you have trouble sleeping properly. Your workout may make it more difficult for you to obtain a good night’s sleep.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s possible that being overweight makes it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleeping on one’s side may be more comfortable for larger persons. Gravity’s weight on your body might make it difficult to breathe while you sleep on your back. To avoid snoring, you should sleep on your side. If it helps, rest your head on a pillow.

A firm mattress is essential for proper spinal alignment. Keep your head and spine in alignment as you sleep by selecting a pillow that is comfortable to sleep on.

Choose mattresses and bedding made of breathable, cooling materials if your body temperature rises during the night due to your sleeping habits. Use a fan and set your thermostat at between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Understanding Your Risks Based on Your Body Weight

The number of overweight and obese persons in the United States and around the world is steadily increasing as people consume more calories and do less physical activity. There are several evident dangers to one’s health when one is overweight or obese because of the numerous diseases and conditions that obesity has been associated with. It’s also possible that the degree of obesity has an effect on this.

Using the body mass index as a weight-to-height ratio is the most prevalent method (BMI). It tries to figure out your body fat percentage. People can be categorized depending on their weight based on the resulting number:

  • Underweight (BMI <18.5)
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9)
  • Overweight (BMI 25-29.9)
  • Obese (BMI 30-34.9)
  • Morbidly obese (BMI 35 and higher)

Nevertheless, it isn’t ideal, and it may exaggerate or underestimate body fat in athletes or elderly people who have lost muscle mass. Using an internet calculator, you can figure out your BMI.

In general, your chance of having health problems associated with being overweight, including sleep disorders, may be correlated to the amount of extra body fat you have. No matter how much weight you gain, it’s unlikely to affect your sleep. Some people may notice an increase in their symptoms if they gain weight. Obesity puts you at the greatest risk for a wide range of health issues.

Weight Gain Leads to Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Obesity-related respiratory difficulties include sleep apnea and snoring, which are well-known symptoms. The extra fat protects and cushions your body. A massive stomach, a bloated face, swollen hips, or prominent buttocks are all signs that something is wrong. The back of the throat and the back of the tongue are also possible hiding places for it. The airway collapses and causes breathing problems when it becomes overburdened with weight from the outside, such as a larger neck or a smaller lung volume.


Snoring occurs as a result of this. Airflow that is too turbulent results in snoring. Think of your exhalations as a river flowing through your lungs. It’s rare to see any surface movement when the river channel is deep. A clear airway, on the other hand, produces no sound. However, if the flow is impeded, there is a lot of commotion. Rapids and whitewater create a ruckus on the river’s surface. Snoring is the outcome of a loud airway caused by a blockage. This is more likely if you have big tonsils or adenoids, a deviated septum in the nose, a tiny lower jaw (known as retrognathia), or a large tongue along the path of blockages (called macroglossia). Tonsil enlargement can cause a variety of health issues in children.

Sleep Apnea

As the airway becomes more packed and more prone to collapse, the flow of air can totally cease. Apnea, or pauses in breathing, will occur as a result. This derives from a Greek term that means “without breath.” Hypopnea is the medical term for a partial blockage that is less severe. People who undertake a sleep test to assess their overnight breathing may have these occurrences summarized as the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) (AHI).

Sleep apnea’s detrimental effects are well-known. These include increased daytime sleepiness, issues with focus, memory, and mood. There are be more significant repercussions. It may independently increase your risk of heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes. There is a link between sleep apnea and an increased risk of stroke and mortality. Children are subject to their own set of consequences, which can have an impact on their physical and mental development.


In the most severe cases, breathing difficulties at night can lead to problems with carbon dioxide retention far into the day. When we breathe properly, we exhale carbon dioxide. Obesity can have a detrimental effect on this process, making it impossible for certain people to catch up while awake. If you’re overweight, you may have a condition called obesity hypoventilation syndrome. It raises the danger of mortality and serious cardiovascular problems.

Restless Legs Linked to Obesity

Weight can have a variety of other effects on sleep, including difficulty breathing. A common symptom of restless legs syndrome is a desire to move one’s legs in order to alleviate the discomfort in the legs in the evening. Restless legs syndrome can have a variety of underlying reasons, ranging from an iron deficiency to pregnancy. Obesity has been linked to a higher incidence of restless legs syndrome. Dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain, maybe implicated, according to some studies. 8 What might be behind this connection, however, is not quite clear.

Also, it’s been found that patients with RLS frequently wake up in the middle of the night to consume something. Their legs appear to be feeling better as a result of this treatment. Uncertainty persists as to whether or not these extra calories contribute to obesity and the existence of this correlation

Poor Sleep May Cause Weight Gain, Worsen Obesity

Last but not least, it appears that sleep deprivation is associated with increased body mass index (BMI). Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are not the only conditions that can cause obesity, but they can also be exacerbated by obesity.

Parasomnias, or abnormal sleep patterns, may play a role in rare cases. Sleep-related eating problem is one such condition (SRED). 9 This is a condition in which a person feeds while they sleep. Foods that are uncommon, high in calories, or even inedible may be consumed (such as coffee grounds or kitty litter). SRED sufferers are sometimes awoken by a lack of food or a filthy kitchen in the morning, as well as the frustrating fact that they can’t manage to shed the pounds.

Sleep deprivation may be a lot more prevalent contributor to weight growth than you might think. Inadequate sleep has been linked to hormone changes that affect metabolism, according to some studies. 10 Body fat storage and usage may be disrupted by an illness or injury. Insulin resistance and a higher risk of diabetes can both be caused by sleep deprivation. As a result, weight gain can be exacerbated if you don’t get enough hours of sleep or have poor quality sleep.

The Bottom Line: Sleep is a Promising Target for Obesity Prevention

Obesity is strongly linked to a lack of sleep, both in infants and children and in adults, according to extensive research. Research to date has mainly focused on observational studies; therefore, it is still unclear if training children and adults how to sleep well can reduce their risk of obesity or help them lose weight. In the near future, results from ongoing randomized clinical studies may be available.

Some scientists have expressed concern about promoting sleep as a solution to the obesity crisis too quickly due to the limitations of the research that has been done thus far. However, from the point of view of public health, promoting sound sleep through lifestyle modifications such as regular bedtimes, reducing coffee intake in the evening, and limiting access to electronic devices in the bedroom carries little danger. Other advantages of good sleep patterns include increased attention at school or work, a more positive attitude, and overall better quality of life. A good night’s sleep should be on everyone’s shortlist for preventing fat.

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