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Weight Loss & Insomnia

By August McLaughlin ; Updated July 18, 2017

Insomnia, one of the most common medical complaints, involves difficulty falling or remaining asleep. It can cause serious complications, such as increased risk for illness, low energy, reduced ability to think or work properly and emotional problems. Weight loss may help alleviate insomnia symptoms in overweight people or increase risk for insomnia in normal-weight or underweight people. For best results, seek guidance from your doctor.

Emotional Factors

Numerous emotional factors of insomnia pertain to weight. Stress, anxiety and depression are major risk factors for condition. Obesity, unnecessary weight gain. compulsive dieting and low-body weight are all associated with these emotional factors. Stress can trigger emotional eating (eating in response to emotions rather than physiological hunger), which commonly results in weight gain. People experiencing stress, anxiety or depression over their body weight or struggles with weight-loss efforts are also more prone to insomnia. According to Mental Health America, insomnia is a potential complication of eating disorders including bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder.

Medical Factors

Weight-related illnesses and medical factors also contribute to insomnia. According to the Mayo Clinic, diet pills and other weight-loss products that contain stimulants--such as caffeine, guarana or ephedrine--frequently disturb sleep. People with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may experience difficulty sleeping and weight loss. Indigestion and sleep apnea--a sleep disorder associated with obesity--also dampen sleep. Overweight or underweight people who take antidepressants, heart disease medication or medications used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) may also experience insomnia.

Lifestyle Factors

Eating too much at night can lead to increased body weight and wake the body internally, which can reduce a person's ability to sleep. Inactivity--a common factor of excess weight gain--can cause lethargy. Inactivity and lethargy are associated with insomnia, particularly among elderly adults. People with eating disorders or on low-calorie diets may consume excessive amounts of caffeine in the form of coffee, energy drinks, diet soft drinks or supplements to attain energy without excessive amounts of calories. Excessive caffeine consumption can also trigger insomnia.

Excessive exercise and exercising late at night can also disturb sleep. In addition, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests that people who are exhausted during the day due to over-exercise, under-eating, overeating, stress or other factors may require daytime naps. People who take two or more naps daily have a higher incidence of insomnia.

Potential Complications

Insomnia can lead to an array of serious complications. According to the NSF, when left untreated, insomnia can increase a person's risk for unhealthy weight gain, illness and death. People who suffer from insomnia also exhibit poorer overall health, greater absenteeism from work and a higher risk for depression. Because obesity and dangerously low body weight increase a person's risk for physical and emotional complications on their own, insomnia may add greater strain and increased risk for these conditions. Most deaths associated with eating disorders and obesity are caused by health-related complications of the disorders.


When a condition such as hyperthyroidism, obesity or anorexia causes insomnia, treating the underlying problem is a key to improving sleep. Overweight people who learn to manage weight and underweight people who increase their weight to a healthier range may find their sleep troubles end. According to the NSF, behavioral therapy is often part of effective insomnia treatment, because much of the condition correlates to a person's behaviors. Even after a person's weight has improved, previous lifestyle behaviors such as eating late at night, adhering to an erratic bedtime and waking schedule or failure to partake in relaxing activities may perpetuate insomnia. In some cases, doctor-prescribed medications or alternate therapies, such as hypnosis, may prove helpful.

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