Is There a Link Between Sleep and Obesity?

 Is there a link between poor sleep and obesity?

Certainly people who are obese often develop problems with obstructive and central sleep apnea, the two most common sleep disorders, as well as related health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.   In fact, US health surveys indicate that 30 percent of employees report insufficient sleep with an equivalent number reporting problems with daytime sleepiness.   Given that many of these same surveys show that 22 percent or more of employees are obese while and additional 36.8 percent are overweight, it’s hardly surprising that recent research does provide some support for a sleep-obesity link.  

Unfortunately, while the link between poor sleep and obesity seems to exist, it’s still not clear how they can be related.   One hypothesis suggests that impaired sleep can affect the hormones that regulate how energy levels are regulated in the body.  Another hypothesis focuses on the impact that poor sleep can have on lifestyle behaviours such as diet and exercise, i.e., fatigue leading to less time spent exercising or eating sensibly.  Considering the overall shift away from labour-intensive jobs towards more sedentary work, getting the minimum amount of moderate-intensity exercise needed to stay healthy (roughly 150 minutes per week according to health guidelines) is becoming increasingly difficult for most people.  If you add in the fatigue that comes from inadequate sleep, along with the problems associated with carrying excess weight,  it`s not surprising that poor sleep and obesity often go together.


To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.



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