Connections between sleep, mood, and obesity?


A new study says that they have linked lack of sleep with unhappiness in obese people. Of the 240 participants about 75% were poor sleepers, 43% were depressed and 52% were anxious. The study carefully controlled for things like age and diseases. The average member of the study was 43 years old, overweight and tired. The people in the study filled out questionnaires that showed their level of happiness. What the researchers concluded that sleep is very important to obese people and they are more likely to develop mental issues like depression when they don't get enough sleep. You can see the study here 

One problem that I have with this study is it fails to address what I believe could be reverse causation. I think that it is possible that people could have been unhappy first and that is causing them to have problems sleeping. If this were the case then the results of the study would be flawed. The researchers should have controlled for the possibility of people developing sleep problems and psychological problems before they became obese.


Dr. G. Neil Thomas also said in regards to the study that, "The focus is often on treating the obesity and its consequences, such as diet and exercise interventions, rather than addressing its underlying cause, which may be psychological in nature, such as an unhappy marriage or job stress." Is it not possible that the obesity itself is a biological mechanism that is causing people to loose sleep and that is what explains the high rates of depressed and anxious people? It turns out that according to the National Sleep Foundation that obesity can make it difficult for people to breath during sleep which can lead to sleep apnea.


To me it seems like this study didn't prove anything and just provides another hypothesis for the connection between sleep, mood, and obesity.





I agree with you completely on this topic. I don't think that the study takes into account all of the different possibilities of these factors effecting each other. I too think that this is a case of reverse causation where the people were already unhappy and this could cause them to lose sleep. I am not an obese person by any means but I do notice that when I go to bed unhappy or with something on my mind I don't get nearly as good of a night sleep.
Here's an article that shows some of the effects of sleep deprivation.

When I read that the average person in the study was 43, overweight, and tired, my initial reaction was that it is not surprising that these people were more likely to become depressed than a younger, healthier, and better rested person. I am very critical of Dr. Thomas' assertion that unhappiness or stress leads to obesity, and agree with you that reverse causation should not be ruled out. There is no question that sleep and obesity do affect happiness in some way, but it is unclear whether there are biological mechanisms associated with their interaction. Dr. Thomas' study looks over the effect that unhappiness can have on a person's sleeping and diet habits, which in turn can cause obesity.

im glad that both of you noticed similar things as me. there is nothing really in this study that would make me think that obesity, unhappiness, and lack of sleep need to happen in any particular order for these connections to be made. Also, there is nothing that can see if people had pre existing unhappiness to their obesity.

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