A study focused on the root causes of daytime sleepiness – a very widespread condition, especially among the working population – has found that obesity and depression are the main culprits.
The work was carried out by scientists at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), who conducted three investigations. The researches covered a total of 1,741 adults in the United States, so their conclusions can be thought of as representative.
Sleepiness and fatigue can be seen at nearly all workplaces, analysts say. In some instances, they can become debilitating, reducing the quality of people's lives, and making some of them lose their jobs.
At the same time, obesity and emotional stress are extremely widespread as well. It is currently estimated that around 1 in 5 people will develop depression during the course of their lives, and that a third of all patients will not respond to medication.
On the other hand, obesity is currently a condition that affects a third of the entire population. Another third is overweight – and prone to becoming obese in the near future – while only the remaining third is of normal weight or underweight.
“The ‘epidemic’ of sleepiness parallels an ‘epidemic’ of obesity and psychosocial stress,” explains the principal investigator of the three new studies, Penn State professor Alexandros Vgontzas, MD.
“Weight loss, depression and sleep disorders should be our priorities in terms of preventing the medical complications and public safety hazards associated with this excessive sleepiness,” the expert adds.
Sleepiness was also found to be caused by insufficient sleep and obstructive sleep apnea (a condition that leads to the collapse of superior airways during sleep). Weirdly enough, not getting enough sleep was not the lead cause of sleepiness.
Details of all three investigations have recently been presented in Boston, at the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS), entitled SLEEP 2012, PsychCentral
“The primary finding connecting our three studies are that depression and obesity are the main risk factors for both new-onset and persistent excessive sleepiness,” Vgontzas told attendants at the meeting.