Sleep Deprivation And Obesity – Here Is What You Need To Know

Can lack of sleep cause weight gain?

So, you had a long, tiring day at work where you drank several cups of coffee along with doughnuts for a quick shot of energy. Afterwards, since you were too tired to cook or go for a workout, you skipped the gym, grabbed a takeout and enjoyed a quiet dinner with your family. And, when it was finally time to hit the sack – guess what! You couldn’t fall asleep regardless of how exhausted you felt!

lack of sleep weight gain

​The end result?You were successful in fighting off your sleepiness. But, the poor food choices along with the lack of exercise led to further sleep deprivation and consequently weight gain.

​Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, states “The cycle started innocently enough. But the lack of sleep deprivation and low energy leads many individuals to go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods.”

Several studies also claim that there is a strong connection between the number of hours people sleep and their weight. In general, children and adults who sleep-deprived are often found to weigh more than those who get enough rest.

The Sleep Diet Connection

You may have heard a lot about the sleep-diet connection in health books and diet magazines. In fact, many health studies also claim that you can lose weight while you catch up on your sleep. Otherwise known as the Sleep Diet, many individuals follow a routine where they do the following:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit the intake of caffeine 7 hours before bedtime
  • Stop using the screens 1 – 2 hours before bedtime
  • Limit excessive alcohol consumption
  • Leave a gap of four hours between dinner and bedtime
sleep and obesity

However, in our society, it is common to not get enough sleep. In fact, many of us boast about staying up all night and or pulling an all-nighter for work, studies, or leisurely purposes. Unfortunately, they do have to pay a heavy price for staying up all night in the form of increasing weight, headaches, drastic effects on overall health, and unproductivity during daytime.

​Nearly one third of the world’s population is obese which is an alarming number on its own. Those who are overweight or obese are more at risk of developing many health conditions and research indicates that if left unchecked, the rise in obesity could lead to future decline in life expectancy.

​According to health experts, obesity is caused by eating too much and getting too little exercise. Those who consume large amount of processed foods, fast food, and sugary drinks are more at risk of being overweight. Moreover, lack of physical activity such as skipping workouts, sedentary jobs and relying too much on cars and elevators instead of walking can also put an individual at risk of being obese.

​According to a Harvard study, there are several possible ways that sleep deprivation can increase the chances of being overweight. Firstly, sleep-deprived individuals are usually too tired during the day time tend to avoid exercise or any other type of physical activity that may "burn calories".

​Another reason can be that those who are sleep deprived are awake for much longer and have more opportunities to eat, whicheventually results in binge-eating. Additionally, lack of sleep can also disrupt the balance between key hormones in the body that areresponsible for controlling appetite. This can be another reason why sleep-deprived individuals are hungrier than those who get adequateand restful sleep at night.

​What To Do About Sleep Deprivation And Obesity?

sleep deprivation

​Obviously, choosing mattresses for heavy people is much easier but it is not a long-term idea. So, what can one do to fight off sleep deprivation and lose unwanted fat?

​Nick Littlehales, a sleep coach, comments,“Sleep is about quality and not quantity”. Hence, a good night’s sleep is all about waking up refreshed, energetic, and alert – regardless of the number of hours you manage to get in.

​He further adds, “Some people such as new moms may only get four hours of sleep while other individuals may be able to get 7 – 8 hours. However, poor quality of sleep may have the same effect on both.”

Fortunately, you can tackle the situation with proper sleeping habits:

exercise before bed
  • Take a nap around mid-afternoon
  • Studies show that exercise can help you sleep well and will also help keep your weight down. However, make sure you keep a 3-hour gap between exercise routine and your bedtime.
  • Keep your phone away from yourself when you sleep.
  • Watch what you eat before bedtime and avoid heavy meals. Instead, opt for healthy food items and light snacks before dinnertime.
  • Limit the use of screens/gadgets at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Don’t drink caffeine 7 hours before bedtime. Instead, take some herbal tea or a decaffeinated beverage.
  • Alcohol may also disrupt your sleep cycle, so avoid drinking an hour or two before bedtime.
  • Refrain from drinking too much water before bedtime.
  • Take a warm shower or bath 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Make a habit of drinking warm milk before going to bed.

In extreme cases, consistent sleep deprivation may also lead to Alzheimer’s. If nothing works and you still feel groggy during the day or have trouble falling asleep, then consider seeing your doctor or a sleep specialist. He may conduct a sleep evaluation and do some brain tests and scans to find out the underlying cause. With the help of a doctor, a treatment plan can be developed that may not only help you sleep better but ultimately assist you in shedding those unwanted pounds as well.

​Good luck and let us know how well you are sleeping after following the tips mentioned above!

Author Bio

Audrey Throne is a mother of a 2-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about health, technology and management and blogs frequently on these topics. After completing her masters in English Literature from the University of Birmingham. Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne

  • Jane
  • Updated April 9, 2018

I am Jane Collins, a Founder and a Main Editor of I decided to create this site to share my knowledge, guides and tips to help you to have a good night's sleep.

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