It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Is there a connection between obesity and sleep disorders?

Find your website incredibly valuable and recommend it frequently. Thank you so much. My question: Is there a connection between obesity and sleep/insomnia?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

a rumpled bed with a single pillow

There is a clear link between poor sleep habits and obesity. In the last few years there have been a number of studies that support those who don't sleep much because they are busy or because they have insomnia are at much higher risk of becoming overweight and obese. There have been a lot of studies on those who work at jobs that requires rotating shifts or shifts where they have to work overnight. Not all of them are conclusive but some do show an association with working through the night and weight issues.

There is some research to support this, however.

The other issue is the association of obesity with sleep apnea. It's clear that those who are obese are at much higher risk of having airflow to the lungs cut off during sleep. This lack of breathing, or apnea, has a detrimental effect on sleep patterns and the quality of sleep. While there's no prospective research looking at this, it does lead one to think that if sleep problems lead to obesity, and obesity leads to sleep apnea and poor quality sleep, that this sets up a cyclic effect of more weight gain.

Thanks very much for your nice words about the Dr. Gourmet web site. Time for a nap now...

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet