Study Says Fat, Sad Americans Suffer ‘Excessive Daytime Sleepiness’—Here’s How To Fight It

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Yet another modern-day syndrome is plaguing Americans, say researchers: excessive daytime sleepiness. (Must be why those 24-hour energy drinks won’t go away.) And they say the two main causes are a) being fat, and b) being sad. Which means…you can’t solve this problem with sleep! Because you’re fat! Other studies have linked obesity to sleep apnea (a sleep disorder that causes disturbed sleep and, likely, a resulting drowsiness), but this one doesn’t actually prove how depression or obesity actually cause a midday dip in wakefulness; it just leaps to yet another conclusion that being fat and sad are probably the reason that the rest of your life sucks.

Alexandros Vgontzas, the psychiatry professor who led the study, described excessive daytime sleepiness’ symptoms:

They could be becoming drowsy behind the wheel; they might not be able to function well at work; they could be falling asleep in the evening when they sit down to watch television.

And to find out why people were feeling this way, he and his team of researchers Penn State Hershey Sleep Research & Treatment Center observed the habits and health of 1,741 adults, most of whom didn’t suffer the above symptoms (1,173 were deemed not to suffer excessive daytime sleepiness, while 222 did; not sure what happened to the other 346). After 7.5 years of follow-up, they found that obesity and depression were the top predictors of on-set during the study; they also found that 38% of people who lost weight during the study found their symptoms resolved.

So…move more, eat better, lose weight…feel less sleepy during the day. Shocking!

The other thing plaguing America right now is desk jobs, most of which require sitting for eight to 10 hours a day, during which we’re not moving (so…getting fat) and often not getting much sunlight or social interaction (so…getting depressed). In fact, as I write this very post, I’m experiencing my own bout of excessive daytime sleepiness (and I’m not fat, depressed, or particularly sleep-deprived).

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    • elenor

      I think a lot of it also has to do with being overweight and/or sad on top of not enough sleep. I do not know very many people (myself included) who regularly get more than 6 or 6.5 hours of sleep a night. It may be enough sleep for some people but the hour or so less adds up in others and being overweight or depressed makes it a lot worse.