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How Your Weight Affects Your Sleeping Patterns

Are you struggling to get a good night’s rest and wondering if those extra pounds around your middle are contributing to your troublesome nights? Your worries aren’t unfounded. Studies have shown that disrupted breathing at night is highly correlated with being overweight or obese. 

At Boston PainCare, the director of sleep medicine, James C. O’Brien, MD, and the rest of our compassionate care team offer comprehensive diagnostic and treatment to our patients in Waltham, Concord, and Natick, Massachusetts, suffering from poor-quality sleep.

To help you better understand the link between your weight and your sleeping patterns, we’ve compiled this informative article. Read on to learn more!

Why does weight affect my sleep?

You may not think carrying extra weight affects your sleep, but excess fat plays a large role in how well your rest at night. That’s because when you carry extra pounds, some of the fat is stored in your neck and near your airways.

As the extra fat crowds your neck and the area at the base of your tongue, it puts pressure on the soft tissues. This extra pressure can cause the airways to collapse or become obstructed, causing you to toss and turn to get adequate air. 

The added fat in your abdomen can also add pressure to your lungs, reducing their capacity and making it hard to get enough oxygen. This can leave you feeling tired even after sleeping for hours.  

What sleep problems does excess weight cause?

There are three main sleep problems associated with excess weight: snoring, sleep apnea, and hypoventilation. Here’s a closer look at how your weight can cause these three sleep issues.


The crowding and pressure excess pounds places on your airways can lead to snoring. When the airway carrying air to your lungs is disrupted or obstructed. The result? Noisy breathing and snoring. Snoring can also be a sign of something more serious, such as sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea 

As you gain weight, the fat in your neck and tissues surrounding your airway increases. This causes the airway to become narrower, making it easy for your tongue to block the opening. The excess fat also increases the chances of your airway collapsing while you sleep. As a result, sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing for periods of time while you sleep. 


In some severe cases, obesity can lead to a condition called obesity hypoventilation syndrome in which your breathing problems at night cause issues with breathing during your waking hours. For some obese people, the ability to breathe out carbon dioxide adequately becomes so compromised they cannot keep up even when awake. 

What treatment options exist for sleep trouble?

Treatment for sleep disorders depends on the nature of your sleep trouble. At Boston PainCare, our team evaluates your overall health, paying special attention to your symptoms and complaints. 

To arrive at an accurate diagnosis, we then use our in-house sleep study to monitor your breathing and movements while you sleep. We may recommend an at-home study for some patients. 

Once the root cause of your sleep trouble is uncovered, we offer a customized treatment plan designed to meet your unique needs. Our comprehensive treatment plan addresses all areas that could be impacting your sleep, including:

By understanding what is causing disturbances in your sleeping patterns, we work to improve the quality and duration of your sleep to improve your overall health and wellbeing. 

Do you want a better night's rest? Contact the Boston PainCare office nearest you to schedule a consultation!

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