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Sleep & Obesity: The Increasingly More Established Connection

Jun 29, 2016 12:31PM ● By Cate Reynolds
For some people, going to bed at the end of the day is a natural, recurring process. But for others, falling asleep or staying asleep might be more of a task. The lack of sleep or quality of sleep you are getting can impair your thinking, reaction time, and could have a negative effect on your health.

The effect of lack of sleep and chronic sleep deprivation on weight gain and obesity are becoming increasingly more established. According to research reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who sleep only five hours per night are at a higher risk of weight gain than women who sleep seven hours per night. This weight gain was shown in another study to be related to an increase in fat rather than muscle. The November 2009 issue of the Obesity Journal, argued that it is not only the duration of sleep, but also the quality of sleep and the amount of time spent in each stage of the sleep cycle that significantly affect obesity. Currently, it is believed that decreased delta sleep, the deepest stage of sleep, has a negative affect on obesity (Journal of Sleep, April 2009).

Sleep disorders and obesity share a very close relationship in which each adversely affects the development and prognosis of the other. Obesity is considered an independent risk factor for sleep apnea, one of the most commonly diagnosed sleep disorders in the United States.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious health problem that affects approximately seven to 15 percent of the population. It is characterized by the repeated closure of the upper airways resulting in a decrease in oxygenation and arousal from sleep. Individual apnea events may occur up to 100 times per night.

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Sleep disorders and obesity share a very close relationship in which each adversely affects the development and prognosis of the other. Obesity is considered an independent risk factor for sleep apnea, one of the most commonly diagnosed sleep disorders in the United States.”

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The sleep interruptions that occur from sleep apnea lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, loss of awareness, a decrease in concentration, and overall function. The interruptions can also lead to a recurrent, episodic increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which contribute to cardiac and vascular complications such as stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, and heart arrhythmia.
Sleep apnea is 12 to 30 times more common in obese patients than in the general population. It is also associated with an increased risk in the development of a metabolic syndrome characterized by obesity, Type II diabetes, and many other hormonal changes, including, changes in thyroid function and sex hormones. An increase in Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight, is another significant risk factor of obstructive sleep apnea and neck circumference is an important predictor of sleep apnea in obese patients.

Sleep apnea may cause or aggravate obesity through various means, including decreased physical activity, chronic functional sleep deprivation, and impairment of metabolic pathways, such as increased insulin resistance and the development of diabetes. Sleep apnea has also been found to influence appetite.

To determine if you have a sleep disorder, a sleep study is conducted. A Polysomnogram (PSG), an overnight test similar to an EKG, is used to record readings like abnormal movements, muscle activity, breathing, and the quality of your sleep.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your physician might require you to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which provides a continuous flow of air to the lungs while sleeping. Other disorders may require medications or even psychological therapy.

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“Sleeping & Obesity” provided by the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

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