So-called yo-yo dieting may increase a woman's risk of insomnia, sleep apnea and other sleep problems, a new study suggests.
Yo-yo dieting -- formally called weight cycling -- is defined as losing and regaining 10 pounds or more when not pregnant.
The study included more than 500 women in every stage of adult life, including childbearing, premenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal. About 60% of the women identified as part of a racial/ethnic minority. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the women reported one or more episodes of weight cycling.
The women were assessed initially and again one year later for associations between weight cycling and sleep problems. At both points, women with a history of weight cycling were more likely to experience sleep problems, according to the study published recently in the The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.
"History of weight cycling was prospectively associated with several measures of poor sleep, including short sleep duration, worse sleep quality, greater insomnia, greater sleep disturbances, and greater daytime dysfunction among diverse U.S. women across various life stages," said study author Brooke Aggarwal, from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, and colleagues.
The researchers also found that women with episodes of weight cycling were also five times more likely to score in the high-risk range for developing obstructive sleep apnea, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other serious health problems.
Being overweight or obese is a known risk factor for sleep problems. In previous research, Aggarwal and her colleagues found that women with a history of weight cycling had an increased risk of poor heart health.
The findings suggest that maintaining a stable body weight over time might promote better sleep, the authors concluded.
"Future research can potentially inform more targeted weight-maintenance interventions for sleep health and cardiovascular health promotion," they said in a journal news release.
The researchers highlighted the need for further studies to determine how body weight changes throughout a person's life may affect sleep, in men as well as women and across racial/ethnic groups.
They also said that asking women about their history of weight cycling might help health care providers assess their patients' risk for sleep problems.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice on healthy weight loss.
SOURCE: The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, news release, May 20, 2021