Sleep improves when even a little bit of weight drops

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OLATHE, Kan. -- A new study finds it doesn't take a whole lot of weight loss to start seeing the benefits of better sleep.  Losing five percent of your body weight, or just 10 pounds if you weigh 200, can help.

Paula Belcher walks with a co-worker over her lunch hour.  It's one way Paul is keeping off 120 pounds.  She's lost that much weight since having weight loss surgery 14 months ago at Olathe Medical Center.  Belcher says less weight has resulted in more sleep.  She figures she's getting an hour more a night.

"Not tossing and turning or trying to get comfortable from being overweight.  I do feel like I get a good night's sleep," said Belcher.

The new study presented at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting shows improved sleep comes with more modest weight loss, too.  Obese people who lost at least five percent of their body weight got an average of 20 minutes more sleep a night compared to just a minute more for those who lost less.  The quality of sleep was better, too.  A sleep specialist says having a thinner neck is one factor.

"You can overall open your throat in a way that you snore less, you breathe more relaxed and if you have some component of sleep apnea which is common, you have less sleep apnea.  You stay asleep better," said Dr. Dennis Lawlor of Olathe Medical Center.

Belcher says losing weight also reduced the joint aches she had which made it harder to sleep.  The study found those who lost at least five percent of their weight improved their mood, too.

Belcher says people tell her that she seems happier.

"I felt like I was depressed before, but I just feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be.  I feel like I'm how I'm supposed to be now," said Belcher.

She's a normal-weight woman who is well-rested.

In the study, improvements in sleep were seen at six months after the people started losing weight.  But at two years out, only improvements in mood were still there.  That may have to do with people regaining some weight.

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