Print Cora Villagomez APRN, FNP-C

Is it possible that a lack of sleep is putting a damper on your weight management or may even be the cause of your weight gain?

While you are at work or school what is the first thing your reach for to stay awake?  Think about it.  One cup or two of coffee full of sugar and fat,  an energy drink full of sugar, or snacks to keep your focus.  Maybe you are so tired that you decide to skip your workout after work.  To top things off you are too fatigued to cook, so you find the most convenient alternative: fast food.  Then straight to bed (if you can fall asleep from all the sugar and caffeine you have consumed throughout the day.)  

As this vicious cycle continues you develop lifelong habits that turn into lack of exercise and high caloric food choices that lead to not only weight gain but, all of the co-morbidities associated with being overweight and obesity.  These may be, but are not limited to:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • metabolic syndrome
  • heart disease
  • poly cystic ovarian syndrome
  • high cholesterol
  • reproduction/sexuality problems
  • obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep does not cause weight loss, but a lack of sleep will cause weight gain. The average person needs about 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night. So, if you are already getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep, an additional 1 hour will not cause weight loss.  But, if you only get 5 hours of sleep, getting 7.5 hours may contribute to weight loss.

Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of Beauty Sleep and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Arizona, says lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight by interfering with 2 nightly hormones: ghrelin and leptin.

“Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin,” Breus says. “Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.”

More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.

If you are suffering from lack of sleep, speak with your physician to assess your quality vs. quantity of sleep.  A thorough history and physical should be conducted to evaluate the underlying cause of poor sleep hygiene. 

Small things people can do on their own to improve sleep hygiene is decrease caffeine intake, exercise regularly (not too close to bed time), steer clear of high volume and/or reflux producing foods right before bed and limiting fluid intake close to bedtime.

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