How Being Overweight Affects Your Sleep Health?

Being overweight is a heavy baggage to carry, pun intended. It can lead to diseases like type II diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and cancer. 

Now just being slightly overweight won’t mean that these risks pop up right away. But the chances of these diseases from happening increases as your body mass index or BMI increases. For adults, the World Health Organization describes overweight as: BMI equal to or greater than 25.

We’ve mentioned that it can cause serious health illnesses, but how does it affect your sleep? Being overweight can lead to the development of sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and even insomnia.

What are these conditions and how it can affect your sleep? Read on to find out!

The Negative Impacts of Being Overweight on Your Sleep

Heavier people find it more difficult to fall asleep because they’re at risk of various sleep-related medical conditions. Here are some of them:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Apnea is the medical term for when you stop breathing— but only for a moment. In medical terms, it’s broken down to the root word pnein, “to breathe” and the prefix a-, “not.”

The most common is “sleep apnea,” in which there are moments during sleep where you stopped breathing. This momentary stop lasts for a few seconds.

How does that happen? 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea happens when your airway is blocked while you’re asleep. It may be your tongue, due to lousy position, or your chest muscles working hard, because of the weight, to expand your lungs.

No breathing means that there’ll be a dip in your oxygen levels. Your heart tries to compensate by trying to pump more to get spread those oxygen molecules.

Your brain, realizing that you’re not breathing, sends commands throughout your body. The brain will try to “jolt you awake.”

You know when you’re sleeping, and you suddenly kick? Like that dream you had where you are falling, and when the “splat” comes, you wake up at once? Well, to some, it’s a body jerk, a loud gasp, a kick, etc. 

This condition, when left unmanaged, can lead to: 

  • Sleepiness

 With waking up on random hours during sleep, your sleep-wake cycle gets disrupted. You wake up groggy, and your head feels heavy. 

  • Cardiovascular (Heart and vessels) problems

When your oxygen supply takes a dip, your heart thinks it’s their fault. 

So what do they do? They try to cover it by working harder, meaning they’d try to pump more. And this adds stress to the heart, leading to high blood pressure, uneven heart rhythms, or heart attack.

What Can You Do to Manage It?

The good news is you can easily manage this condition by using sleep apnea pillows and mattresses for heavier sleepers that can promote proper spinal alignment and good sleeping posture. 

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS is when you have this urge to move your legs. You shift your legs, and then after a few beats, you want to move them again.

What are those symptoms?

  • Restlessness
  • Tossing and turning in bed
  • Crawling, tingling sensations. It would feel like bugs are on your legs or arms, but when you sweat the area, it turns out there are no bugs.
  • Urge to pace, or move limbs.

Restless Leg Syndrome thus affects your sleep. You lose sleep, which then affects the following day, and therefore your work performance. And when your sleeping pattern is disrupted enough, it would start to affect your body function and formation of unhealthy habits.


Insomnia is when you couldn’t sleep, even when the “mood” is right. The room has the right amount of quiet— the right amount of background buzz. But you still cannot sleep.

Insomnia can be caused by short-term things that happened that day— a general discomfort, stress, etc. And things like irregular sleeping habits, alternating day and night shifts, medications may lead to frequent insomnia.

When you can’t sleep, what do you do? You get stressed over not sleeping, and you’d then try to eat your stress out. This then makes you more likely to gain weight. And thus a cycle forms.

What can you do to stop it?

  • Exercise

Exercise does a lot of things to your body and not just controls how you weigh. 

Exercise lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. It trains and strengthens your heart, improving overall circulation.

Exercise makes you happy. While you exercise, your brain releases chemicals like dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and happiness. So when you exercise, you get a pump of that dopamine goodness, making your day a little bit better.

  • Stop using electronic devices before sleep.

When you set your bedtime at 10 in the evening, you may want to stop using your phone at least 30 minutes before bed. This is because your screen emits blue light, making your brain alert or awake, despite being tired from a day’s work.

So wash up, do your nightly skincare routine, or change into your sleep clothes. Relax.

Final Words

Overweight and obesity pose a high risk for a lot of serious diseases. It can affect you mentally as it affects your sleep causing sleep apnea and insomnia. That’s why it’s important for you to make the necessary lifestyle changes to lose weight so you can sleep more and feel better!

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