How Sleep Disorders Can Affect Daytime Fatigue and Weight Gain

Dr. Amir

Tossing and turning throughout the night won't just lead to daytime grumpiness. Many people understand sleep's importance to the mind and body, but how many know that sleeping enough each night may also contribute to a healthy weight? Sleep disorders have more than an effect on daytime fatigue; they can lead to obesity as well.

One of the worst ways a sleep disorder can affect your waistline is in how little energy you're left with throughout the day. You may find yourself turning to food more often for a quick burst of energy, and the kinds of foods that you may reach for can be loaded with refined sugars that only fuel your body for a short period of time, leaving you reaching for another serving. Without adequate fuel, you may feel unmotivated to perform any of your usual tasks much less do something as energy-consuming as working out. By the time nighttime rolls around, you may find yourself restless or faced with a second wind that starts the cycle all over again.

Sleep debt is like any other kind of debt; you'll eventually need to pay it back. When you aren't getting enough sleep to compensate for that debt, your body will take it out on your metabolism. One way this manifests is in two chemicals: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin production is reduced when you're tired, and as the hormone responsible for telling you that you've had enough, you'll have less impulse-control and will eat to excess. Ghrelin sends a signal to eat more food, and this hormone is on overdrive when you aren't properly rested as it tries to compensate for low energy reserves. With both of these out of alignment, you have a recipe for weight gain.

Excessive fatigue can be indicative of many underlying issues, but the most common factor for daytime fatigue is insufficient rest during the nighttime hours. This do-it-all behavior is praised in our culture, and many Americans are proud to pull all-nighters or brush off a sleep schedule in favor of getting more done. By some estimates, we now sleep about a quarter less than we did a century ago. All of this fatigue can manifest in dangerous ways.

A number of Americans have reported driving while fatigued or even falling asleep while driving. Nearly the same amount report fatigue or sleeping at work. A smaller percentage report a reduced interest in sexual activity from constant fatigue while about the same have admitted to missing important lifetime events due to fatigue. Sleep deprivation has dire consequences for your personal health as well.

When you fail to get enough rest, your mental processes are impaired. You may have difficulty concentrating or remembering important information. Your threshold for stress may also suffer, and smaller troubles may set you off in large ways, leading to bouts of anger and depression. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to higher blood pressure as well as increased inflammation, which can encourage the onset of cardiovascular disease.

With all of those negatives, you can see the importance of a good night's rest. However, if you have a sleeping disorder, being able to sleep soundly through the night may seem out of reach. While there are a number of medications available, there are many steps you can take in your day-to-day life that can get you set on a sleeping schedule that works for you.

Begin by avoiding stimulants outside of the morning hours. Stimulants may seem to wear off after a short period, but you may be feeling those effects for some time after consumption. Keep coffee a morning delight, or switch to decaf when the afternoon hits. Feed your mind and body throughout the day using a healthy mix of protein, good fats and carbohydrates. Choose full-fiber options for foods that your body can digest slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer periods of time. Avoid eating right before bedtime as your body will have trouble digesting once you do fall asleep. Finally, make sure to exercise. Exercise perks many people up, so adding it to your morning routine can keep you energized throughout the day and help you to have more restful sleep when nighttime hits. As always, every person is different, so experiment to find the plan that works for you.