Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

Sleep and Weight

Gaining Weight? Don't Head to the Gym, Head to Bed!

As you may know by now, sleep deprivation can have a drastic effect on one's health. It is widely known that lack of sleep has been associated with hypertension, depression, heart attack, strokes and problems with complexion. But did you know that recently, scientists have begun to link obstructive sleep apnea to weight gain?

According to several recent studies, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to an increase in weight, for a multitude of reasons. The first is that when people are continuously tired, they eat to keep their energy up. The low level of energy associated with a lack of sleep also can stop them from exercising. And, more scientifically, obstructive sleep apnea also can affect weight and appetite on a hormonal level, leading to weight issues.

Without sufficient sleep, leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, is reduced in the body, while grehlin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, is increased. Cortisol, a hormone linked to weight maintenance, also is negatively affected by sleep deprivation.

So next time you're stressing over weight issues and are busy trying to remember how many potato chips you ate this weekend or when the last time you made it to the gym was, take your sleep habits into consideration:

  • Do you find yourself falling asleep at inopportune times, like at the dinner table or at your computer?
  • Do you wake up each morning gasping for air?
  • Does your partner complain that they aren't getting any sleep because of your snoring?

These are all signs that could point to obstructive sleep apnea, and can, in turn, lead to weight gain. If this is the case, it's important that you undergo a sleep study to determine if your sleep habits are having a negative effect on your health. Your body will thank you for it, and as an added bonus, you'll feel great if you manage to drop a dress size while you're at it.

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