Harvard Health Letter

Weight loss for better sleep

If you're overweight, particularly around the middle, you may sleep better if you drop a few pounds. A recent study presented at an American Heart Association meeting found that losing weight, especially in your belly, improves the quality of sleep for overweight and obese people.

Weight-sleep connection

Researchers found that people who spent six months following either a combined diet and exercise program or a diet program alone lost an average of 15 pounds, with 15% of it in their bellies. Both groups also experienced improved sleep quality.

Excess body weight, especially in the neck, increases the likelihood of developing obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when your airway becomes blocked, either completely or partially, while you sleep. It causes you to wake frequently, putting you at risk for a number of other conditions including stroke and high blood pressure. "So one possibility with the study results is that weight loss reduced sleep apnea and improved sleep quality," says sleep expert Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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