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Effect Of Sleep On Weight

Last updated April 8, 2017

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Freestock.com

When you are asleep, the quantities of two major hormones are affected, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin increases one’s appetite and can lead to weight gain. Leptin suppresses one’s appetite and can encourage weight loss.


Many individuals believe that our bodies and minds are not active while we are asleep. However, recent research shows that we are just as, if not more, active while we are asleep compared to when we are awake. Sleep scientists have been eager to examine the correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain.

When you are asleep, the quantities of two major hormones are affected, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin increases one’s appetite and can lead to weight gain. Leptin suppresses one’s appetite and can encourage weight loss. Sleep deprivation disrupts the hormonal balance, resulting in an increase in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin levels. This may lead to weight gain. This is one of the reasons why people who sleep 7 to 9 hours per day weigh less.

In a study published in SLEEP, participants ate more than an extra 300 calories per day after four hours of sleep than after nine hours of sleep. If this lifestyle persisted on a daily basis, that means the individual can eat an extra 109,500 calories or 31.3 pounds per year, which contributes to a lack of sleep weight gain.

An experiment published in the American Journal of Epidemiology evaluated 68,183 women for 16 years and found that those who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to gain weight and become obese than those who got seven hours of sleep per night.

Here are ways to get better sleep to maintain a healthy body and mind:

1. Find out how much sleep you need.

Everyone needs a different amount of sleep. Some people need only seven hours, while others need 10 hours in order to function properly. Count back seven and a half hours from the time you need to wake up and that is the bedtime you should start with.

2. Keep a consistent bedtime.

Your body has an internal clock. Keeping a regular bedtime can keep your hormones in balance.

3. Create a sleep environment.

Use your bedroom only for sleep. Get rid of light that may keep you up at night.

4. Cut back on coffee late in the day.

Caffeine products, such as coffee, may suppress your appetite; but, it is a stimulant that will keep you up late at night if you drink coffee after 3pm.

5. Get some exercise during the day.

Be careful to not exercise late in the day. This will keep you up in the evening.

6. Decrease your drinking right before bedtime.

Drinking water right before bed may wake you up to use the restroom. Many people think that alcohol will make you sleep better; in fact it has the opposite effect. You can have a more shallow sleep if you drink too much before sleep.

Additional Resources:

Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS medicine, 1(3), e62.

St-Onge, M. P., O'Keeffe, M., Roberts, A. L., RoyChoudhury, A., & Laferrere, B. (2012). Short sleep duration, glucose dysregulation and hormonal regulation of appetite in men and women. Sleep, 35(11), 1503.

Patel, S. R., Malhotra, A., White, D. P., Gottlieb, D. J., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. American journal of epidemiology, 164(10), 947-954

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Patel, S. R., Malhotra, A., White, D. P., Gottlieb, D. J., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. American journal of epidemiology, 164(10), 947-954.

Patel, S. R., & Hu, F. B. (2008). Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity, 16(3), 643-653.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 8, 2017
Last updated: April 8, 2017