How Losing Sleep Makes You Gain Weight

June 22, 2017 • Rehack Team


After staying up too late on more than one occasion, you may have noticed an upward trend on the scale. It’s not your imagination. Studies suggest a lack of sleep correlates with weight gain.

Not getting enough sleep can lead to an imbalance of your body’s systems. According to results from a clinical study, women gained as much as 11 pounds when sleeping less than five hours or more than nine hours at night compared to women sleeping seven hours. Several factors link sleep and weight gain.

The Scoop on Weight Gain

Hormones and behaviors play key roles when it comes to packing on the pounds due to sleep deprivation. Your duration of sleep and weight gain directly links to the body’s hormones ghrelin and leptin, among others. When you slack on the amount of sleep your body requires, the hormone ghrelin increases signaling you to eat. The hormone leptin decreases under the same stress, so you feel satisfied after a meal or snack.

If you consistently skimp on sleep, your stomach will growl looking for carbs to provide a quick energy boost. This leads to ingesting excess calories. On average, people suffering from sleep deprivation eat an additional 300 calories over what their body needs. Eventually, the extra calories add up and result in noticeable weight gain.

After a restless night of little sleep, you may feel too tired to exercise the next day. However, without enough physical activity, your metabolism can slow down or work incorrectly. This leads to easy weight gain.

Your body’s fat cells and insulin levels show effects from sleep deprivation and may begin working improperly. One study published in the March 2016 issue of Sleep, reported that sleep deprivation activates the endocannabinoid (eCB) system which helps to regulate your body’s hunger and satiety signals as well as energy levels.

This particular system can lead to hedonic eating — the act of eating for pleasure. It affects the brain by releasing feelings of pleasure and comfort. In the study, participants with only four and half hours of sleep showed higher levels of eCB during the afternoon each day and consumed more food throughout the day.

How You Can Fight Back

Provide your body with enough sleep to combat weight gain. Young adults need seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night. Older adults can get by with seven to eight hours.

Experts recommend going to bed at a normal time on a long weekend or during vacation and waking up naturally. You may sleep more the first few days as your body adjusts. After that, you should have a good understanding of your body’s sleep requirements.

Without good quality sleep, it won’t matter if you get in eight hours of sleep. You can improve the quality of your sleep by making a few adjustments to your lifestyle.

Consider cutting back on the caffeine in the afternoons and evenings. This change will give your mind and body time to unwind. Shy away from eating a heavy or greasy meal before bedtime, or you’ll risk wreaking havoc on your digestive track. In the evenings, opt for a lighter dinner or snack on a bowl of cereal before bed if you are hungry.

Exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake, so try working out earlier in the day for a better sounding sleep later. Exercise causes your body to increase in temperature and the resulting drop later in the evening promotes a better quality of sleep.

If you try the above tactics and still consistently wake up tired, consider consulting with a sleep specialist. They may order a sleep study to observe your sleep patterns for underlying conditions, such as apnea, restless leg syndrome or snoring.