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Lose Weight, Sleep Better

October 2, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

If you’re overweight and you snore at night, there’s a good chance you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People with this condition are unable to get adequate quantities of air through the nose and throat while sleeping. This can lead a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream and poor sleep quality due to frequent choking and loud snoring. Even if you set aside enough time to rest, you simply will not be well rested when you wake up. This drowsy state of mind puts people at higher risk for overall mortality resulting from accidents and cardiovascular related health events. The best natural way to address this serious condition is to lose as much excess weight as possible. Today I’ll share three safe and natural techniques that may help you achieve that goal.

The days when snoring was a joking matter are long gone. It’s estimated that about 12 million people in the US alone suffer from sleep apnea. Study after study in the medical literature tells us that this sleep disorder can significantly increase the odds of blood sugar irregularities, high blood pressure and stroke risk. In short, sleep apnea can severely impact the quality and quantity of one’s life. (1,2,3)

A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine is the latest to prove that modest weight loss can lead to dramatic improvements in the sleep patterns of overweight individuals. A total of 264 obese patients with type 2 diabetes were enrolled in the current trial. Their ages ranged from 45-75 years old. Half of the group adopted an “intensive” weight loss program and began exercising about 3 hours per week. The remainder of the study volunteers attended educational classes that focused on the conventional management of diabetes through diet, exercise and social support. After one year, those on the intensive weight loss program lost approximately 24 pounds. Roughly 3 times as many participants in the treatment group achieved “total remission of their OSA”. The researchers specifically noted that those who lost the greatest amount of weight reported the most significant declines in severe OSA symptoms. This final point suggests that even greater improvements could be expected if continued weight loss occurs. (4)

Losing weight and keeping it off can be a major challenge for many people. Three recent trials offer natural suggestions about how to better manage appetite and compulsive eating while on a weight loss program:

  • The September 23rd edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined whether prebiotics could decrease hunger and promote satiety (fullness) in a group of 10 men and women. Prebiotics are types of non-digestible carbohydrates that selectively feed the healthy bacteria in the digestive system. 5 of the participants were given 16 grams of prebiotics daily for 2 weeks. The other five were fed a non-prebiotic carbohydrate source (dextrin maltose) for the same period of time. A few interesting observations were discovered in the prebiotic group: 1) levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 and peptide YY increased; and 2) post meal blood sugar levels declined. These changes indicate positive shifts in terms of lowering hunger and encouraging healthier weight management. (5)
  • The August 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association describes the success of a 3 week relaxation program in curbing emotional eating. The trial involved 60 women who participated in 12 “relaxation training sessions”. A control group, which received only conventional “hospital-based care”, was used as a comparison model. The relaxation course proved effective in reducing the number of emotional eating incidents and also improved key psychological triggers (anxiety and depression). (6)
Source: PLoS Med 6(8): e1000132 (link)
  • A study from June 2009 tested the effects of “auricular acupuncture” in a pilot study of 45 obese women. Half of the participants received legitimate acupuncture and the remainder were administered “sham acupuncture”. The sham leg of the experiment utilized “placebo needles”. These look and feel like regular needles but don’t actually break the skin. All the women received their respective forms of acupuncture twice weekly for 6 weeks. Those who were treated with real acupuncture had higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin – as compared to when they started the study. The placebo group didn’t exhibit any changes in gut hormone levels that impact appetite and satiety. The authors of the trial concluded that, “auricular acupuncture may have potential benefit on obesity-related hormone peptides”. (7,8)

My regular readers know that I’ve recently completed a 80+ pound weight loss program. I used to suffer from severe sleep apnea myself. Not only did my loud snoring and interrupted sleep concern my wife, but it also impacted her ability to rest peacefully. That was actually one of the most compelling reasons for me to finally address my own weight loss challenge. I didn’t use acupuncture, but I did use my fair share of prebiotics and relaxation techniques to help me along the way. I’m convinced that if I could lose the excess weight and dramatically improve my sleep quality, anyone else can as well.

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Diet and Weight Loss, Nutrition

8 Comments & Updates to “Lose Weight, Sleep Better”

  1. Tiffany Says:

    I have a few family members that have sleep apnea. They are over weight and their doctors have said if they lose some weight they will sleep better..

  2. JP Says:


    I truly hope your loved ones will take their doctors advice. It really does help promote restful sleep and daytime quality of life.

    Be well!


  3. Zach Smith Says:

    Sleep apnea should not be treated lightly. Those few seconds when you stop breathing is already dangerous for your health. In addition to trying to lose weight, overweight people should begin to look for firmer mattresses. They are less likely to feel like they are being suffocated if they use a firmer mattress. Beds like memory foam or latex also provide better back support. Overweight people tend to experience severe back pains as a result of pressure points. But with a firmer mattress like memory foam, it can adhere to the contours of your body and correct sleep posture.

  4. JP Says:


    Thank you for your contribution. Do you know of any research on the topic of mattress type and sleep apnea severity? I’d be interested to know about that.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update: L-Theanine, a component of green tea, improves sleep quality …


    J Am Coll Nutr. 2015 Mar 11:1-12.

    In Search of a Safe Natural Sleep Aid.

    Sleep deprivation is associated with an elevated risk of various diseases and leads to a poor quality of life and negative socioeconomic consequences. Sleep inducers such as drugs and herbal medicines may often lead to dependence and other side effects. l-Theanine (γ-glutamylethylamide), an amino acid naturally found abundant in tea leaves, has anxiolytic effects via the induction of α brain waves without additive and other side effects associated with conventional sleep inducers. Anxiolysis is required for the initiation of high-quality sleep. In this study, we review the mechanism(s), safety, and efficacy of l-theanine. Collectively, sleep studies based on an actigraph, the obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) sleep inventory questionnaire, wakeup after sleep onset (WASO) and automatic nervous system (ANS) assessment, sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve activities, and a pediatric sleep questionnaire (PSQ) suggest that the administration of 200 mg of l-theanine before bed may support improved sleep quality not by sedation but through anxiolysis. Because l-theanine does not induce daytime drowsiness, it may be useful at any time of the day. The no observable adverse effect level (NOAEL) for the oral administration of l-theanine was determined to be above 2000 mg/kg bw/day. Key teaching points: Sleep deprivation-associated morbidity is an increasing public health concern posing a substantial socioeconomic burden. Chronic sleep disorders may seriously affect quality of life and may be etiological factors in a number of chronic diseases such as depression, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Most sleep inducers are sedatives and are often associated with addiction and other side effects. l-Theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness. Unlike conventional sleep inducers, l-theanine is not a sedative but promotes good quality of sleep through anxiolysis. This review suggests that l-theanine is a safe natural sleep aid.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 11/15/16:


    Sleep Med. 2016 Sep;25:113-121.

    Effects of aerobic exercise on home-based sleep among overweight and obese men with chronic insomnia symptoms: a randomized controlled trial.

    OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of a six-month aerobic exercise program on home-based sleep quality among overweight and obese men with chronic insomnia symptoms.

    METHODS: Participants were 45 Finnish men (93% had body mass index ≥25) aged 30-65 years, with chronic (≥3 months) insomnia symptoms as classified by the DSM-IV criteria. Participants were randomized into an exercise (n = 24) or control group (n = 21). The exercise group received six-month aerobic exercise intervention with one to five sessions per week of 30-60 minutes duration. The control group was instructed to maintain habitual lifestyle behaviors during the study period. Seven-night home sleep was measured with a piezoelectric bed sensor and sleep diary. Other assessments included the modified Basic Nordic Sleep Questionnaire, a health and behavior questionnaire, physical activity and diet diaries, anthropometry, fat mass, and physical fitness. Analysis of covariance controlling for baseline values, and repeated-measures analysis of variance were implemented for time-by-group comparisons and within-group comparisons, respectively.

    RESULTS: At six months, the exercise group showed reduced objective sleep onset latency (p = 0.010) and lowered frequency of difficulty initiating sleep (p = 0.021) than controls. Although a time-by-group difference was not significant, exercisers showed shorter objective wake after sleep onset (p = 0.004), reduced subjective nocturnal awakenings (p = 0.010), improved objective sleep efficiency (p <0.001), and improved morning-rated subjective sleep quality (p = 0.042) at six months than baseline.

    CONCLUSIONS: A six-month aerobic exercise can improve sleep, mainly by mitigating difficulty of initiating sleep among overweight and obese men with chronic insomnia symptoms.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 03/11/17:


    Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Feb 23:1-9.

    Regular consumption of HolisFiit, a polyphenol-rich extract-based food supplement, improves mind and body well-being of overweight and slightly obese volunteers: a randomized, double-blind, parallel trial.

    Modern lifestyles face growing demands for natural solutions to help improve general well-being. Accordingly, mind-body activities such as yoga have considerably grown. However, beneficial effects require regular workout. Besides, literature suggests that polyphenols may demonstrate positive effects on both mental and physical health. Overweight and obese volunteers, for which well-being might be perceived degraded, were included in a 16-week double-blind, randomized and parallel trial with a daily supplementation of HolisFiit®, a polyphenol-rich food supplement. Body composition was assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) technology; well-being was evaluated with both, Athens Insomnia Scale (AIS) and components from Short Form-36 questionnaire (SF-36). Body composition significantly rebalanced by 7.7% (p = .019) of the lean-to-fat mass ratio. Also, sleep quality significantly improved by 43% (p = .00015) as well as both physical and mental components from SF-36, respectively by 10% (p = .004) and 7% (p = .021). These data altogether, suggest that regular consumption of HolisFiit®, might significantly improve mind and body well-being.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 03/12/19:


    J Clin Sleep Med. 2019 Mar 5.

    Eating Late Negatively Affects Sleep Pattern and Apnea Severity in Individuals With Sleep Apnea.

    STUDY OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to analyze the association between habitual meal timing and sleep parameters, as well as habitual meal timing and apnea severity in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

    METHODS: Patients in whom mild to severe OSA was diagnosed were included in the study (n = 296). Sleep parameters were analyzed by polysomnography. Dietary pattern was obtained by a food frequency questionnaire and meal timing of the participants. Individuals with OSA were categorized by meal timing (early, late, and skippers).

    RESULTS: Dinner timing was associated with sleep latency (β = 0.130, P = .022), apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) (β = 1.284, P = .033) and poor sleep quality (β = 1.140, P = .015). Breakfast timing was associated with wake after sleep onset (WASO) (β = 3.567, P = .003), stage N1 sleep (β = 0.130, P< .001), and stage R sleep (β = -1.189, P = .001). Lunch timing also was associated with stage N1 sleep (β = 0.095, P = .025), sleep latency (β = 0.293, P = .001), and daytime sleepiness (β = 1.267, P = .009). Compared to early eaters, late eaters presented lower duration of stage R sleep and greater values of sleep latency, WASO, stage N1 sleep, and AHI, in addition to increased risk of poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness (P< .005). CONCLUSIONS: Late meal timing was associated with worse sleep pattern and quality and apnea severity than early meal timing. Despite some of these results having limited clinical significance, they can lead to a better understanding about how meal timing affects OSA and sleep parameters. Be well! JP

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