The Sleep-Weight Connection

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • A lack of sleep can directly affect your weight and overall health.


    Studies have shown that a lack of sleep promotes the expression of a gene linked to obesity. Both sleeping too little (fewer than six hours per night) and too much (more than nine to ten hours per night) are associated with weight gain. 


    Researchers also suggest that a lack of sleep can result in a vicious cycle, meaning poor sleep leads to weight gain, which leads to conditions that interfere with sleep, which means continued sleep deprivation. 


    How it affects appetite

    Sleep quality and quantity have been found to affect the appetite regulation hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin levels decrease after a meal and increase between meals. Leptin is another hormone that reduces feelings of hunger. Adipose tissue secretes leptin while the stomach secretes ghrelin.

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    Research has found that if you don’t get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you’re not as likely to feel satisfied after you eat.


     Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase the ratio of ghrelin to leptin, leading to increased appetite, particularly when it comes to carbohydrate cravings. Many studies have shown a lack of sleep can lead to increased caloric intake throughout the day.


    Weight and breathing disorders

    Sleep-disordered breathing also affects weight. Some forms of sleep-disordered breathing are associated with elevated blood leptin levels and leptin resistance, which often results in increased feelings of hunger.


    At the same time, obesity increases the risk of developing conditions such as sleep apnea. If untreated, sleep-disordered breathing increases risk for heart attacks and strokes.


    Sleep and hormones

    Sleep also plays a role in hormone production, including insulin, cortisol, glucagon, catecholamines, growth hormone, and leptin/ghrelin, which we touched on previously.


    Sleep deprivation can lead to impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes.


    Tips for better sleeping

     So, it should be clear that good sleep is critical to your health.  Here are a few tips that can help you:

    1. Try to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning at the same time every day. This includes weekends.
    2. Limit food and beverages prior to bedtime.
    3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine late in the day.
    4. Avoid TV and computer time 60 minutes before bedtime.
    5. If you need a nap, try to keep it to 20 minutes.


    Be sure to access the free report “How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits” at


Published On: October 30, 2012