Weight gain is blamed on a lot of things—from overeating and under-exercising to environmental triggers and genetics. An often overlooked factor may be your sleep habits, with growing evidence linking too little shut-eye with weight gain.
- A 2017 study1 found that not getting enough sleep led to overeating the next day.
- The study was an analysis of 11 intervention trials, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In each of the trials:
- Participants were either restricted in their sleep time (3.5 to 5.5 hours per night) or got their usual rest (7 to 12 hours).
- Those who were sleep-deprived had a net gain of 385 calories a day. On average they ate more and didn’t expend more energy, compared to the control groups.
What’s the connection?
Sleep deprivation disrupts the body’s internal clock and may affect appetite hormones. This then leads to:
- Increased hunger and food intake
- Decreased calorie-burning
- Increased fat storage
Sleep-deprived people may experience changes in activation of the reward center of their brain, which causes them to seek more food.
The trials did not look at long-term sleep deprivation (most were just 1 to 14 days), actual weight gain, or if increasing sleep can help prevent obesity.
If you’re finding it difficult to lose excess weight (or want to not gain weight), it can’t hurt to try to get more sleep. Plus, getting enough sleep is very important for many other health reasons.
- Some people may be hindered by sleep problems or medical issues such as sleep apnea, back pain, osteoarthritis, and other conditions.
- For others, finding more time for sleep may simply be a matter of making some lifestyle changes and making sleep a priority.
- H. Al Khatib. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May, 2017.