Falling asleep for apparently no reason? You’re too fat, lose weight.

Alan writes:

My Name is Alan. I grew up in farm country, have a height of about 5’11” and have weighed between 250 and 300 lbs since I was 16.
My first encounter with weight prejudice was when I joined the military. Their charts set my maximum weight at 190 lbs. I spent my entire time in the military on the “Fat Boy” program because of my weight. I was scoring outstanding on the sit-ups, push-ups and run; had a BF index of 20%, but failed at the weight chart. I left the military weighing 285 lbs.
Two years after leaving the military I suddenly started dropping off to sleep without warning in the middle of the day. This caused me to have two car accidents which prompted me to setup a doctors appointment. I had never seen this physician before but he had been recommended by my wife’s physician.
The nurses did the normal check-in of gather complaint, temperature, height, weight(265 lbs) and showed me to a room. I was a little confused because they didn’t do a BP yet. about 5 minutes later the doctor came in and asked “so besides your weight causing you to have fatigue, is anything else going on?” I was flabbergasted. I tried to explain that I had just started dropping off to sleep while in the middle of doing things for the last three months. He responded that this is not uncommon with my level of obesity. He ignored my statements that my weight was less than my last weighing when I left the military and my eating habits, and activity level hadn’t changed. He just continued to state that I needed to lose 40-50 lbs to be at a “safe” weight.
When I later was ranting about this to a group of friends, one of them commented that they had similar symptoms when their pillow was too fluffed because it caused sleep apnea. I stopped using a pillow that night and my symptoms vanished within 3 days.

Leave a comment


  1. Sleep apnea is life-threatening, and it is the first thing to look for when people have excessive daytime sleepiness. Did you ask for your co-pay back? Complain to the insurance company? Just because he’s a doctor, doesn’t mean he’s not a businessman. Anyone who sees their pet peeve instead of a real, living human being who is also a customer, needs to lose those customers. In flocks.

  2. I have sleep apnea – it’s horrible. I use a cpap machine and it helps but its a pain. Definitely going to try your trick of sleeping without a pillow – if it works – i’m forever in your debt!!!

  3. AllThingsToNoOne

     /  June 23, 2009

    I work in a sleep lab.
    Pillows cannot cause or make obstructive sleep apnea worse. Take it from me, please.
    Being overweight; however, does greatly increase your risk for sleep apnea.
    You need to see a legitimate sleep specialist. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be caused by a host of other problems. Have you ever had a sleep study? How about narcolepsy? (you would need a daytime sleep test to rule that out)
    I’m glad your symptoms vanished, but seriously, falling asleep in the middle of day is a serious problem and should be dealt with by a respected doctor.
    Best of luck to you.

  4. lilacsigil

     /  June 24, 2009

    Being overweight; however, does greatly increase your risk for sleep apnea.

    Or, conversely, sleep apnea greatly increases your chance of being overweight.

  5. AllThingsToNoOne

     /  June 24, 2009

    True, lilacsigil.

  6. Halle

     /  June 29, 2009

    I am still having problem with energy and tiredness. I was sent for an EXPENSIVE (even after insurance payment) sleep eval, and told that, my sleep was normal with no apnea. I told the doc that I did not think that was a problem — I sleep like a log. I am just tired all the time, and can fall asleep any time I choose. When the sleep eval came back negative, she basically just shrugged and gave up trying to solve the tiredness. I have asked for a referral to an endo.

  7. Caitin

     /  July 2, 2009

    Being overweight; however, does greatly increase your risk for sleep apnea.

    If you work in a sleeping lab you desperately need to read this, pronto. The data that being overweight increases your risk of sleep apnea was FABRICATED (according to the Office of Research Integrity and the Assistant Secretary for Health) because researchers found that their results just weren’t fitting their pretty pretty hypothesis that it was the fatties’ own fault.

    I have no idea why someone who works in a sleep lab wouldn’t know that. You might want to do better at keeping up with your field.


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