Does lack of sleep cause weight gain?
With the new year comes new resolutions, and each year, losing weight is the most popular resolution. Eating right, exercising, and avoiding fast food… it all sounds great. However, most people who resolve to lose weight may be ignoring a very important factor in both weight loss and overall health — a good night of sleep. How exactly are sleep and weight gain connected? Let’s explore this close relationship to help you make 2019 your healthiest year yet.
The Connection Between Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain
Sleep and Food Intake
For those wondering: Does lack of sleep cause weight loss? The answer is no — those that sleep less generally eat more. This may seem like common sense since the more time you spend awake, the more time you have to consume calories, but it’s not just a matter of time. Our brain chemistry changes with sleep deprivation. We produce less of the hormone that tells us we are full (leptin) and more of the hormone that signals hunger (ghrelin). Studies have shown that sleep-deprived individuals eat an extra 385 calories per day on average. Yet the calories they spend are not significantly different from those that sleep more. These extra calories add up quickly over time, making the connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain clear.
Sleep and Impulse Control
Not only does sleepiness make you eat more, but it also makes you more likely to eat the wrong things. Sleep deprivation affects the brain’s ability to control impulses and make smart decisions. Separate studies show that sleep deprivation increases your chances of eating high fat and carbohydrate-rich foods.
Sleep and Metabolism
If that weren’t enough, our bodies’ metabolism also pays the price for skimping on the shut-eye. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, increases with sleep deprivation, and this signals your body to store away calories as fat. Insulin, which is in charge of pulling sugar out of your blood stream and into your cells, does not work as well, leading to higher blood sugar levels, and once again, more calories converted to fat. Insulin, cortisol and sleep and weight gain all compound to create a viciously unhealthy cycle.
Sleep and Exercise
We now know that sleepiness equals an increase in calories consumed. Sleep deprivation also leads to fatigue, thereby preventing you from expending those calories through exercise. In short, sleep deprivation is the perfect storm to destroy your resolution to lose weight.
How can you prevent sleep deprivation from undermining your resolution to lose weight? Focus on getting an appropriate quantity and good quality of sleep. Adults require seven to nine hours to feel fully refreshed, so sleep hygiene is essential to ensuring good quality sleep and a healthy lifestyle.
As you start this new year, remember that a healthier, slimmer you starts with a good night of sleep!
About The Author
Dr. Sujay Kansagra Sujay Kansagra, MD is an associate professor at Duke University Medical Center and is Mattress Firm's Sleep Health Expert. He is also the Program Director of the Pediatric Neurology Residency Program and Director of the Duke Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program. Dr. Kansagra is double board certified in both Child Neurology and Sleep Medicine. He has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals and is the author of numerous book chapters and books on the topic of sleep, including My Child Won’t Sleep. He’s been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Bustle, SheKnows, Thrillist, CNN, and Reader’s Digest, among others and can be found regularly discussing sleep, medicine and education with his 129K+ Twitter followers via his accounts, @medschooladvice and @PedsSleepDoc. Best Night’s Sleep: Not just a sleep expert, but also an expert sleeper, Dr. Kansagra can sleep almost anywhere, thanks to years of sleep deprivation during medical school and residency call nights. But his best sleep is at home with his family, on a mattress he purchased at Mattress Firm long before he joined our team. He recently upgraded it with an adjustable base.