The correlation between sleep and weight gain

In recent years, there have been reports suggesting a potential relationship between lack of sleep and weight gain or obesity. Is there truly a correlation between the two? In this article, I delve into the research surrounding sleep duration and its impact on body weight. My intention is to share how sleep deprivation affects our hormones, eating habits, and overall health, while also providing preventive measures to keep obesity and weight gain at bay.


When we sleep, our bodies undergo a process of repair and recovery. Just like a fully charged phone or starting the day with a 10% battery, a good night's sleep sets the stage for optimal functioning. Numerous research papers conducted over the years have shown that individuals who consistently sleep less than six hours per night tend to gain nearly double the amount of weight over a six-year period compared to those who get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.


Surprisingly, individuals who sleep over nine hours per night exhibit similar body composition outcomes as those who sleep less than six hours. The primary reason for sleep deprivation is not necessarily due to health issues or demanding schedules but rather voluntary bedtime delays caused by activities such as watching TV or scrolling through social media.


Sleep deprivation, whether voluntary or due to underlying health conditions, increases the risk of weight gain, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. A study conducted in 2005, which tracked 10,000 individuals, found that those between the ages of 32 and 49 who slept less than seven hours were more likely to be obese. Interestingly, staying awake past midnight was also associated with increased obesity risk, while wake time showed no correlation.


Several mechanisms explain how sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain. Firstly, it leads to decreased levels of growth hormone (GH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and increased cortisol, which can impact body fat accumulation. Chronic sleep deprivation also disrupts insulin response and lowers leptin levels, the hormone responsible for signalling fullness and regulating appetite. Consequently, sleep-deprived individuals tend to engage in night-time snacking, often opting for quick processed foods or dessert.


Lack of sleep not only affects eating habits but also leads to decreased motivation for exercise, lower overall activity levels, and reduced adherence to healthier choices. Fatigue and tiredness make it easier to choose convenience over healthier alternatives, leading to increased calorie intake and decreased calorie expenditure. Additionally, sleep deprivation affects appetite hormones. Studies have shown that individuals who slept only four hours for two consecutive nights experienced lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, resulting in increased hunger and cravings for calorie-dense sweet foods.


To keep weight in check and promote overall health, it is recommended to aim for an average of seven to eight hours of sleep per night, ensuring no two consecutive nights involve less than six hours of sleep. The ideal number of sleep hours varies for children during their growth stages.


Establishing a consistent sleep routine and addressing voluntary bedtime delays are crucial for maintaining good health. Design a wind-down routine that allows for the natural release of melatonin.


Dos and Don'ts:



- Avoid electronic devices for 30 to 60 minutes before bed

- Ensure your bedroom is cool and dark

- Sleep before midnight

- Aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night



- Have two consecutive nights of less than six hours of sleep

- Vary your bedtime by more than two to three hours

- Consume caffeine after 4 PM


The relationship between sleep duration and weight gain is indeed significant. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to hormonal imbalances, disrupted appetite regulation, and decreased motivation for physical activity, ultimately contributing to weight gain and potential health risks. By prioritizing sufficient sleep and implementing preventive measures such as establishing a consistent sleep routine, we can improve our overall health and effectively manage body weight. Remember, a well-regulated sleep pattern is key to a healthier, more balanced life.


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