While many people live with the assumption that only diet and exercise levels affect weight, modern research shows that the reality is not so simple. As surprising as it may seem, not getting a good night’s sleep can also lead to obesity.
Sleep is more important than many of us deem it to be. If you are not getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, you are essentially inviting a host of physical and mental conditions. Many of these ailments can be avoided and cured by simply following a good sleep schedule and healthy sleep habits. Obesity is one of the many problems that you can combat with good sleep.
The relationship between obesity and sleep
As most of us know, carrying around excess body weight is never good for our health. Many obese individuals are also aware of this and try to lead a healthy lifestyle. However, the most common approaches are also often faulty. For example, dedicating hours to running and jogging or eating only juices and smoothies might not be the best way to lose weight. Instead, we suggest a different approach – giving your body the rest it deserves. It can be a much easier and painless way of getting rid of those extra pounds.
The problem for obese individuals is double-edged. On one hand, an improper sleep schedule promotes weight gain. On the other hand, being obese leads to loss of sleep and sleep apnea. It starts a vicious loop of obesity and poor sleep, and getting out of it can become very challenging.
How poor sleep can make you obese?
Leptin and ghrelin are the two hormones that regulate appetite and hunger. When these hormones are released in the right amounts, we do not feel unreasonably or impulsively hungry. However, not having a proper sleep schedule can change the way our bodies release these hormones, leading to impulsive hunger pangs and in some cases, eating disorders. As a result of our irregular food habits, we eventually gain weight. In no time, being overweight turns from being obese to being morbidly obese.
Another factor linking sleep and obesity is metabolism. Our metabolism is the highest when we are in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When we fail to achieve REM over prolonged periods, our metabolism becomes weak and we have a hard time absorbing the food we eat. It leads to further weight gain and poor dietary choices.
Digestion and sleep are also directly connected. The better we sleep, the better we digest. When we do not get enough sleep, digestion becomes weak. When our digestion is weak, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to absorb high-calorie food. As a result, we start gaining weight and invite a range of health issues.
Another crucial yet often unnoticed aspect is the relationship between sleep and decision-making. Sleeping through a problem is a common saying across cultures and languages. At the core of the saying is the fact that we make better decisions when we are well-rested. How is it related to obesity? Let us explain:
As a combination of irregular hormone release and poor metabolism, sleep-deprived people often feel excessively hungry. However, hunger is not the only problem. When we are sleep-deprived, we also make poor dietary choices. That means we choose sugary and high-carb food over something healthy like vegetables. Over time, these bad eating habits catch up and make us obese.
The effect of obesity on sleep
Until now, we talked about how poor sleep can lead to obesity and weight gain. Now we will look at how obesity can lead to bad sleep.
Research has shown that obese individuals are more prone to waking up in the middle of sleep. Sleep apnea is among the many things that cause this. Sleep apnea refers to a condition where individuals have trouble breathing while sleeping. As a result, they often wake up in the middle of the night panting and sweating. It has a long-lasting effect on our sleep patterns and overall health. Obesity is also linked with permanently altering the sleep schedules of people. It becomes difficult for obese individuals to fall and stay asleep.
Since sleep apnea is one of the major concerns for obese individuals, we will look at it in detail.
Weight gain, sleep apnea and how they affect each other
Sleep apnea is a condition under which breathing becomes difficult while sleeping. Those diagnosed with sleep apnea would often also snore loudly or wake up without feeling rested. People who are already dealing with obesity have a much higher risk of suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is primarily of three types:
- Obstructive sleep apnea – It happens as a result of loose throat muscles that make breathing difficult. It is the most common type of sleep apnea that millions of people suffer from.
- Central sleep apnea – It is a result of poor signaling from the brain to the breathing control muscles. It is comparatively less common than obstructive sleep apnea.
- Complex sleep apnea – When someone is suffering from both obstructive and central sleep apnea, it is called complex sleep apnea. While it is not a common syndrome, the dangers associated are very high.
While obesity is not the only reason for sleep apnea, it certainly amplifies the problem. Obesity is also linked with other health problems like congestion of the heart, blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. These health issues, in turn, can lead to sleep apnea.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Chances are, you already realize it if you have sleep apnea. However, the symptoms are not pronounced in many cases. Nonetheless, the issue can be much more severe if not treated at the right time.
- Loud snoring is one of the most potent signs of sleep apnea. If your partner or family complains of loud snores, you should get yourself checked by a physician.
- Not being able to breathe in sleep. Sometimes you would wake up as a result of your inability to breathe smoothly. However, it can also go unnoticed. If someone is sleeping with you, they can report the same to you once you are awake.
- Waking up in the morning with an excessively dry mouth is also an indication of sleep apnea. It happens as a result of gasping for breath while you are asleep. Since you breathe more from your mouth than the nose, your mouth can dry up through the night.
- Insomnia is another clear sign of sleep apnea. If you are waking up multiple times due to breathing problems, it is very likely that you are suffering from sleep apnea.
- Finally, if you do not feel rested after a good night’s sleep, you might be suffering from sleep apnea.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, getting in touch with a doctor is a good idea. Remember that the earlier you start treatment, the higher the chances of recovery. Many people ignore sleep apnea as a minor issue, but it can turn out to be life-threatening. Early and prompt medical care is non-negotiable and no one should neglect the condition and its effects.
How sleep can help you lose weight
Many people feel that sleeping and losing weight are unrelated. While we understand the necessity of regular sleep, it is usually not associated with losing weight or fitness in general. The reality, however, is quite different.
Quality of sleep has a direct bearing on weight. As we discussed earlier, good sleep regulates the release of Leptin and ghrelin – the appetite-controlling hormones. As a result, we feel less hungry at odd times and do not crave sugary foods as much.
When we are well-rested, we also make better dietary choices. We are much more likely to stick to our diets when our minds and bodies are rested. As a result of consistent dietary practices, we can prevent becoming obese or overweight.
Another effect that sleep has on weight loss is not so obvious. When we have a proper sleep schedule and good sleeping habits, we wake up feeling refreshed. As a result, we are more likely to go to the gym or break a sweat somewhere else. The more we go into fitness, the better we take care of our bodies. This way, sleep has a roundabout way of helping us deal with obesity.
Now that we have discussed at length the relationship between sleep apnea and obesity, it is time to introduce solutions. While sleep apnea is a dangerous threat, it is not incurable. Doctors and sleep specialists can help you with medications and other techniques to get better sleep every night.
While we strongly recommend consulting your physician, there are a few safe things that you can do at your home to promote overall well-being and quality of sleep. Let’s find out what these are and how you can do these in your home and bedroom.
How to beat obesity and sleep apnea
Before going into the problem, it is important to understand the two parts of the problem:
- Losing weight
- Sleeping better.
For losing weight, most of us know the basic mantra. The formula is very simple – burn more calories than you eat to lose weight. Good eating habits also go a long way in ensuring obesity-free life.
Eating well is also not as complicated as gurus and the media wants you to believe. The idea is to have a fine balance of all the macronutrients – carbs, proteins, and fat. While some diets cut off carbs entirely, others restrict their intake. Instead of going with an extreme diet like paleo or keto, it is best to stick with a tried and tested pattern. The trick is to lower sugar consumption, increase veggie consumption, and get all your micro-nutrients either naturally or through pills.
Another important aspect of weight loss is exercising and working out. Working out with consistency is at the backbone of any transformation journey. While many people argue that diet is more important than working out for weight loss, research does not indicate the same. It is very important to hit the gym or play sports regularly to see the results.
When you do resistance training, you build muscles and lose fats simultaneously. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn even while sleeping. It is very important for obese individuals to mix and match their workouts. Only running or only swimming will not be as effective as adding a resistance workout to the mix.
Now we are at the more interesting part – how to sleep better to cure sleep apnea.
- The first step to good sleep is a schedule. When you fall asleep and wake up roughly at the same time every day, sleeping becomes much easier. While adults should aim to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day, often the quality of sleep matters more than its duration. Long-term oversleeping, on the other hand, may be linked to a multitude of health issues also.
- Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. For example, swap the bright lights for warmer tones and regulate the temperature of your bedroom. You can use electric blankets that warm you up while you are sleeping, minimizing the chances of stiff muscles that make breathing difficult. Cut off all screens at least 1 hour before bedtime. Similarly, you can choose to play soft music or read a book to wind down. The idea is to switch yourself off from the day’s grind when it’s time to sleep.
- Learn to let go of all your worries before sleeping. If you sleep with a tense mind, falling asleep will be much more difficult. You can make your night routine more relaxing with an electric foot warmer, essential oils, a warm bath, and so on.
- Most importantly, it is very important to avoid the trap of sleep stress. It refers to a condition where you stress about not being able to sleep. It feeds a negative loop that makes sleeping very difficult from a psychological standpoint. Not only are you incapable of sleeping, but also stressed about your inability to sleep. If conscious intervention and good bedtime practices cannot help you with sleep stress, you should visit a doctor or sleep expert.
If you want a good night’s sleep, make your sleep environment comfortable first. From heating pads, heating cushions, foot warmers to electric blankets, Wellcare has a wide range of solutions to help you sleep better and keep you warm. We only use the finest available materials for your comfort.
Our products are also equipped with the 4D Dynamic Warmth Flow system (4D DWF). Innovation in electric heating technology, the 4D DWF mimics the human body’s breathing to ensure even heat distribution throughout the surface of the product.