Iowa Sleep Blog

Obesity's Effects on Sleep

Monday, March 02, 2015

Obesity's effects on sleep  

Today, over 65% of Americans are overweight or considered obese, with those numbers growing among both children and adults. This increase can be linked to our more sedative lifestyles, change in diets and heredity traits over time. Adults are not the only ones affected by obesity, as the number of children who are considered obese has also risen. According the Center of Disease Control, one in three children born after the year 2000 are at risk for developing diabetes. Carrying around a few extra pounds affects more than just your overall health, it affects how well you sleep at night.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

More than 18 million adults suffer from a  obstructive sleep apnea, and studies from the CDC are showing children are starting to develop them as well at a young ages, making it more important to diagnose and treat early on. Adults who carry extra weight around the neck, throat, and trunk area compromise their respiratory function while they sleep, as the excess tissue can block the airways causing an onset of an apnea. This blockage affects your breathing while you sleep, causing the sleeper to briefly wake up to begin breathing again. These pauses can bring on the sensation of choking or gasping, as well as loud snoring. Many times, a bed partner will notice the signs first, as the sleeper does not realize they are doing this while they sleep.


Individuals who are considered obese can also suffer from insomnia, which is a recurring problem falling sleep, maintaining sleep, or waking up feeling unrefreshed. Many people lay in bed tossing and turning hoping to fall asleep, or frequently wake up during the night and experience difficulty falling back asleep. Insomnia also causes excess daytime sleepiness that can leave you feeling, foggy, forgetful and drowsy no matter how much caffeine you consume. To avoid this feeling, stick to a consistent time to be in bed each night, and to wake up the next morning. In turn, individuals who don't sleep enough can be putting themselves at risk for becoming overweight. When you aren't sleeping enough, the body decreases the presence of leptin, which helps control appetite, making you want to eat more.

If you are considered overweight or obese, there are small, attainable lifestyle changes you can make to sleep better at night. Adjusting your diet to account for more leafy vegetables and fish and less red meat and fatty foods can help. Create an eating schedule that incorporates three meals and a few small snacks throughout the day so you are no longer confusing fatigue or thirst with hunger. Work in short amounts of light exercise such as light walking or yoga to get your heart pumping to promote that tired feeling at the end of the day. These small changes can help you manage and maintain your weight while allowing you to sleep better at night.

For more advice about changes you can make to sleep well, contact us at 885-346-8899 to set up an appointment with one of our sleep doctors to learn more.