Do you know overweight has a great impact on your sleep? Not only this there are many facts between weight and sleep. Let’s discover how weight affects your sleep quality.
We already mention that being of a nervous disposition is associated with poorer sleep, at least as people judge their sleep for themselves (See how to measurement sleep). Being worried not only interferes with sleep, for most of us it also takes away the appetite for food (though there are people who find comfort in eating and who tend to overeat when anxious).
The psychiatrist who has most notably called attention to the relationship between people’s weight and how much they sleep is Prof Arthur Crisp of London.
In January 1976 he together with a colleague published in the British Medicinal Journal an article describing their investigation into the relationship between on the one hand hoe people felt about their own emotions, and their height and weight, on the other.
The article was called Jolly Fat because it showed that people who were fatter were also people who were happier.
How weight affects your sleep
Prof Crisp and his team picked out from the list of a family doctors practice in south London the names of a thousand men and women, simply on the basis of where their names fell in the alphabet.
They had to be aged between forty and sixty-five. The 70 percent who were prepared to cooperate attended the doctor’s surgery and had their heights and body weights carefully measured.
They then completed what is called the Middlesex Hospital Questionnaire, which was designed to measure how anxious each person normally felt or herself to be, how depressed they felt they generally were, and so on.
Making allowance for height, people were classified into those who were overweight by 20 percent those who were overweight by 40 percent or more, and those who were not overweight.
The questionnaire revealed that on average the fat people were happier people in their own eyes than those of leaner build. Since as we have seen being happy is associated with good sleep, and being anxious and depressed is associated with poor sleep, fat people can be expected to sleep better than thin people.
A few years ago at Edinburgh were conducting research into the normal, undrugged sleep of middle-aged people of stable body weight, and used the EEG to record their sleep throughout twenty nights each.
Making allowance for their sleep throughout twenty nights each. Making allowance for their height and whether they were of large, medium, or small body frame, we used the Metropolitan Life Assurance weight tables (given below) to assess each volunteer’s ideal body weight.
The more they were above their ideal weight the longer they slept at nights in the laboratory, and if they were underweight, they slept less than other average people.
Their weight seemed also to have governed the running of their biological clocks. You will remember the 100-minute ultradian rhythm during sleep; we were interested to find that the volunteers who were above ideal body weight had cycles that were longer than the usual 100 minutes, and those who were below had shorter cycles.
So we found, as Crisp’s work had suggested, that fat people do indeed sleep longer. We had judged how fat our volunteers were by relating their weight to their height.
Just taking their gross body weight into account, without considering height, we found that the heavier people spent proportionately more of the night in paradoxical sleep.
In this kind of sleep, the muscles are profoundly relaxed that is to say they are getting their most extreme rest.
The heavier you are, the more energy you have to expend every day, partly for lifting your body up hills and out of chairs, but more especially just for sustaining posture, holding your head upright and back straight.
So it may be that heavy people take more paradoxical sleep at night to give their muscles extra rest after the heavier work by day though this is just an educated guess.
You lose sleep when you lose weight
Prof Crisp and his colleague, Dr. Stone hill, used to run a slimming clinic for severely overweight people and they asked their patients to keep a regular note of how much they slept.
They found that as the fat people got thinner they thought they slept less. Crisp and his colleagues found the clearest example of this in patients who manifest anorexia nervosa a condition of voluntary starvation.
The sleep of these patients was measured using the EEG all night at a time when they were being fed a good diet. First of all, sleep was measured while they were very thin, and then weeks later, on the same diet sleep was measured again when they had reached a normal weight.
The more weight they put on, the more they slept. When they had been very thin they had tended to wake early and lie awake for long periods before getting up. When returned to their normal weight they slept soundly through the later hours of the night.
Crisp and Stone hill asked another question: when people attend a psychiatric clinic and describe how they have been sleeping less well lately to what extent might this be a consequence simply of weight loss? To find the answer they arranged their own psychiatric clinic in the following way.
Every new outpatient was seen by someone who found out whether body weight had recently been steady, whether there had been a loss of weight or whether there had been again.
Quite independently someone else decides after questioning the patient whether there had been a loss of weight, or whether there had been again.
Quite independently, someone else decided after questioning the patient whether there had been some recent change in sleep, such as waking more in the night and sleeping less, or sleeping more than usual.
Finally, the psychiatrist saw the patient and at the end of the interview made a judgment of the patient’s mood in terms of general happiness or unhappiness.
When all three sets of data were subsequently put together, it emerged that people who had recently times and especially waking up earlier than usual; and all this proved to be unrelated to their mood of happiness of unhappiness.
Crisp and stone hill concluded that the poor sleep, which frequently accompanies spells of depression can largely be attributed not to the depression itself, with its unhappy thoughts, but to sheer loss of body weight.
What is the best weight for you?
In summary, therefore, people who are rather overweight tend to consider themselves to be happier people, and to sleep more than those who are underweight. Getting very thin is bad for your body anyway, but it is particularly bad for sleep.
We are not advocating that you get fat. Extremes in matters of health are generally best avoided. Apart from significantly increasing the risk of developing heart trouble and arthritis, severe obesity may also be detrimental to sleep.
The sheer weight of fat in the abdomen can restrict night-time breathing, and for reasons we do not yet fully understand, very overweight people can suffer from periodic breathlessness-or sleep apnoea that constantly disrupts theirs throughout the night.
However, if you are under your ideal weight according to the weight table overleaf and you feel you sleep is not as good as you would like it to be, why not put on a pound or two?
OR, if you are at your ideal weight or only 10 percent or so above it, and you feel like slimming down-perhaps to make a good impression on the beach next summer-then think first whether a trim appearance is worth the risk of a period of shorter nights’ sleep.
To be a little on the chubby side can do you no harm, and may even help you to sleep better.
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