Sleep Loss: A Culprit for Weight Gain

Published:June 20th, 2011

Are you losing sleep and gaining weight at the same time? Do you ever wonder why people who are not getting that much sleep tend to get overweight or obese after some time? Well, wonder no more. Lack of sleep and sleep deprivation does not only make you feel groggy and drowsy. It can even drag your metabolism all at the same time, says a new study researched by a group of scientists from the Department of Neuroendocrinology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany and Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden and published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2011. Sleep loss does not only promote increase in weight by making you feel a lot more hungry than you usually do. It makes you metabolism slow down as well.  On the other hand, having enough rest and sleep can prevent your body from gaining weight, a good news for those who want to get rid of their extra love handles.

According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 50 to 70 adults, including those who work on graveyard shifts,  in the United States suffer from long term loss of sleep.

Previous clinical investigations suggests that sleep deprivation leads to weight gain by disrupting the hunger-associated hormones and stress hormones during the waking hours.

In this study, 14 adult male students from a well-known university were recruited and were categorized depending on their sleeping habits. The categories are as follows: compromised sleep, no sleep and normal sleep duration. They were then observed for several days and their baseline and changes in the amount of calories they eat, their hormonal levels and metabolic rates were measured, compared and analyzed accordingly.

This group of scientists found that even a night of missed sleep can greatly lower ones metabolism the next day, causing the body to have a decreased energy expenditure by at least five to twenty percent the next day. In addition to this, other findings that may cause weight gain during compromised sleeping time include an increased level of blood sugar, alteration in the level of ghrelin, the appetite-regulating hormone and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

Previous studies show that people who only have five hours or less of sleeping time tend to gain more weight and develop type 2 diabetes mellitus.  However, these studies fail to prove that sleep loss is really the main culprit for weight gain.

It is not known if sleep deprivation has a direct effect to weight gain and obesity. Other factors that can increase one’s weight include a sedentary  lifestyle and increased caloric intake.

Adults should still have at least seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night, says the National Sleep Foundation.


The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition;Acute sleep deprivation reduces energy expenditure in healthy men; Benedict, C. et al.; June 2011

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