Research: The relationship between weight change and daytime sleepiness

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Increased weight tied to daytime sleepiness



Medical providers and researchers have long known that there is a relationship between obesity and sleep apnea and that sleep apnea causes daytime sleepiness or drowsiness.  This finding is now known to be due with increased floppiness of the airway and thickness of the tissue on the chest and airways.  The fact is that daytime somnolence cannot always be explained by obstructive sleep apnea.  This fact would make one think that weight gain may be associated with day time sleepiness with or without obstructive sleep apnea, but the evidence was lacking.  

A new study published within the Journal of Sleep Medicine in  2017 looked that this very question.  Researchers aimed to assess the association between weight change and daytime sleepiness, and the role of obstructive sleep apnea[1].  The study used data from the Sleep Heart Health Study.  The subjects were individuals that were 40–64 years old with a body mass index over 18.5 kg/m2,  no history of stroke, treatment for OSA, and tracheostomy at baseline (airway problem at baseline).  The researchers used analysis to adjust out other potential causes of daytime sleepiness and to mediate the role of OSA.  Researchers found that approximately one-fifth of the relationship between weight change and daytime sleepiness was mediated by severity of OSA at five years.

The bottom line:  Weight gain has a detrimental effect on daytime sleepiness that is more often not caused by obstructive sleep apnea.  This study provides further evidence and understanding of the relationship between obesity and excessive daytime sleepiness.  If you have problems sleep or staying asleep or wake poorly rested, discuss it with a medical provider, but weight loss may help you get better more restful sleep.  


W. L. Ng, L. Orellana, J. E. Shaw, E. Wong, and A. Peeters, “The relationship between weight change and daytime sleepiness: the Sleep Heart Health Study,” Sleep Medicine, vol. 36, pp. 109–118, Aug. 2017 [Online]. Available: 10.1016/j.sleep.2017.05.004″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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