Can weight gain cause sleep problems?

Heather Campbell
 min read

Can weight gain cause sleep problems? Definitely. Sleep problems caused by weight gain include hypoventilation, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, snoring, and sleep deprivation.

Can weight gain cause sleep problems?Strangely, being overweight not only causes sleep problems, it can also work the other way around. Namely, a lack of sleep can cause weight gain.

Finally, we also dig a little deeper on the topic of alcohol, its effect on your sleep and what to do if you are serious about losing weight.

Tip: Check our other article to compare bed frames for overweight persons.

Can weight gain cause sleep problems? Introduction

You probably already know that many health problems are associated with obesity. For example, the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Did you know that obesity can also affect your sleep rhythm and create sleep problems?

A few extra pounds won’t have a big effect on your sleep right away. However, the more you gain, the greater the risk of developing sleep problems.

Can weight gain cause sleep problems? Yes, here are some of the sleep problems caused by weight gain


The most widely recognized complications of obesity have to do with breathing disruption, causing snoring and sleep apnea.

Snoring is the mild effect here. Disrupted airflow in your airway naturally becomes noisy and results in snoring.

This can happen when you have obstacles on the “route” like:

  • enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • a deviated septum in the nose
  • a small lower jaw (retrognathia)
  • a large tongue (macroglossia)

Sleep apnea

As the air restriction gets worse, sometimes the airflow can stop completely. This results in pauses in breathing called apnea, a Greek word meaning “without breath”.

When the pauses in your breathing are slightly less intense, it’s called hypopnea. Known problems associated with sleep apnea include:

  • feeling constantly sleepy
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mood swings

It also increases the craving for sweets and reduces the willpower to eat healthy, making it easy to gain more and more weight.

There are also more serious consequences: it increases the risk of heart failure and diabetes, for example.


In the most severe cases, nocturnal respiratory problems can lead to carbon dioxide retention during the day.

Hypoventilation means that there is less ventilation than average in the lungs. Carbon dioxide is usually blown off when we breathe correctly.

This is so compromised during sleep that it becomes impossible to catch up during the day, especially in some overweight people. This is also known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

This increases the risk of serious cardiovascular complications and the risk of early death.

Restless legs

Maybe you recognize it. This syndrome is characterized by constant discomfort in the legs, usually in the evening.

This is often accompanied by the urge to exercise to relieve the symptom. Causes of restless legs include iron deficiency or pregnancy.

But obesity is also increasingly mentioned. For example, studies found that people with restless legs are more likely to get up at night to grab something to snack.

Standing up for a moment gives them the feeling that the symptoms are somewhat relieved.

Can weight gain cause sleep problems? Sleep deprivation and obesity

One of the biggest causes of obesity? That’s a lack of sleep.

Research shows that a sleep debt leads to hormonal changes that disrupt your metabolism. These changes make weight loss incredibly difficult.

A disrupted sleep rhythm can also lead to insulin resistance or even an increased risk of diabetes.

If you are overweight and have sleep problems, don’t reach for sleep medication. Instead, solve the real problem.

This can be done in a pleasantly healthy way by eating unprocessed and low-carb foods. Get started by yourself, or get help from an expert.

You can make the following little changes to make a massive difference in your weight and sleep patterns:

  • Avoid fast carbohydrates and sugars
  • Drink not more than 2 cups of coffee, no more after 3 p.m.
  • Do not eat after dinner

Avoid alcohol, the inconspicuous fattener

If you want to lose weight, it is beneficial to drink less alcohol. It would be even better to think about a life without it. Alcohol is, in fact, an unremarkable fattener.

Calories in alcohol

Many people think that food makes you fat, but don’t underestimate drinking alcohol. For example, one gram of alcohol provides 7 kcal, whereas one gram of fat provides 9 kcal.

However, the difference is that fats provide essential nutrients to the body, and alcohol only provides empty calories. So drinking alcohol does nothing beneficial for you.

In fact, it is toxic, which is why the body does everything it can to burn the calories from alcohol immediately. So your body will try to remove the alcohol from your blood as quickly as possible.

This process is given priority over the burning of fats and carbohydrates that enter the body through food. These molecules are therefore stored as fat. So with regular alcohol consumption, your energy burn is shut down every time.

If you also eat while drinking or combine it with a fruit juice high in sugars, this is double the trouble. As a result, losing weight combined with alcohol consumption is highly difficult.


In addition to calories from alcohol, most alcoholic beverages also contain large amounts of sugar. Think cocktails and mixed drinks where vodka, rum, or other spirits are mixed with soft drinks.

You’ll soon be taking in 300 calories, of which at least 14 grams of sugars.

And don’t forget beer! It often contains a type of sugar called maltose. For example, a glass of beer easily contains 100 calories, including almost 8 grams of sugars.

If you drink a lot of beer in one day, your body cannot burn all the sugars you take in.

Therefore, these are immediately converted into fat and stored around the abdomen. The result we all recognize is the well-known beer belly.

While this may seem harmless at first, excess belly fat is very dangerous to your health. Excessive belly fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Excessive alcohol consumption

The link between alcohol and weight gain is more vital when alcohol is consumed in large quantities. So is drinking alcohol still more important to many people than a healthy body?

Most people don’t realize that you’re devastating your body with excessive drinking. The hangover is a warning that the body is entirely unbalanced by alcohol’s toxic effect.

Headaches occur because blood vessels in the brain widen, and nausea results from an irritated stomach.

In addition, the liver’s ability to convert sugars is also impaired. This causes sugar levels to drop and leaves your body feeling fatigued.

In addition, dehydration is also on the horizon.

Yet these signs are often ignored and do not outweigh the sociability of drinking alcohol.

Do you really want to lose weight? Then here’s an essential thing to realize: On the day of the hangover, your body is so confused that it often craves fatty or sweet foods.

As a result, chances are you’re taking in a lot more calories than if you hadn’t been drinking the night before.


It may be advised to stop drinking alcohol while losing weight, but don’t think you can never have another drink again. When you’re at your weight, a beer or wine every now and then really can’t hurt.

The following tips can help reduce your drinking habits:

  • drink from a small glass instead of a giant one
  • alternate this glass with a glass of water each time
  • choose a time in advance when you will stop drinking
  • drink consciously, and put your glass down every now and then
  • try a non-alcoholic drink
  • When you quit or start drinking less, consider social pressure from your friends.

Many people think that you are antisocial if you don’t drink alcohol. So you will have to apologize quite a bit for choosing to live a healthier life.

Can weight gain cause sleep problems? Conclusion

In this post, we confirm that gaining weight can definitely lead to sleep problems.

Examples of these sleep problems due to weight gain include snoring, restless legs, hypoventilation, sleep deprivation, gaining even more weight, and sleep apnea.

Finally, we go into more detail on the topic of alcohol and its effect on your sleep and your weight.

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About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More