Sleep's Relationship to Overweight
> 5/21/2008 3:28:00 PM


Obesity and the overly sedentary lifestyle that so often accommodates it can seriously affect our ability to sleep. Obese individuals suffer from a notably greater prevalence of insomnia, fitful sleep, and sleep apnea, the dangerous condition in which breathing ceases for a period due to the obese body's difficulty in maintaining the regular flow of oxygen through obstructed or constricted airways. The body of a child, still in its developmental stages, requires more sleep than most, and the corrosive relationship between obesity and sleep works both ways: lack of sleep can facilitate weight gain.

A large part of this equation stems from the very purpose of the sleep: recovery and rejuvenation. Like an insufficiently charged battery, people who do not get enough sleep run at less than maximum efficiency. Building a "sleep deficit" after nights wracked by insomnia leaves one with decimated mental and physical energy, compromising the body's functions and often leaving one too tired to exercise, work productively, or perform academically.

In January 2008, a study published in the journal Sleep followed 519 children from birth until the age of 7, noting sleep patterns, environmental variables and related health complications. While nightly sleep patterns bore little influence on intelligence assessments and behavioral disorders like ADHD, children who averaged less than 9 hours of sleep per night were significantly more likely to be overweight by age 7. Other detrimental effects did exist, but they were more coincidental. Researchers linked a lack of sleep with increased emotional impulsiveness and more dramatic shifts in mood, but that correlation was nowhere near as strong as that observed between insomnia and obesity.

Average self-reported sleep times have declined consistently over the past 50 years, from nearly 8.5 hours in 1960 to just over 7 today. Sleep, though it may seem inconvenient at times, is not something to be undervalued.

Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy