Studies say less sleep can cause weight gain

Published: Dec. 1, 2017 at 4:38 PM EST
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Around 35 percent of adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleep can cause daytime drowsiness and irritability, but also weight gain. Therefore, a good night’s sleep may be your best weapon in the battle of the bulge.

You hit the gym. You watch what you eat. You weigh yourself regularly. But what do you think is the best way to lose weight?

What if sleep is what you need?

In a recent study, scientists found too little sleep can actually change the balance of bacteria in your gut. In one of the largest studies to date, women who slept five hours or less a night were 15 percent more likely to become obese compared to those who got seven hours. And in yet another study, people who slept five and a half hours or less a night consumed about 385 more calories a day than those who slept seven hours or more.

“There are guidelines to follow and you have to look at both quantity and quality of sleep," says Kathleen Armstrong, director of the pediatric psychology program at the University of South Florida.

Aim for seven to nine hours a night. To help you reach that goal, stay on a schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Even on weekends. Keep your bedroom cool, somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees. And check your mattress. It’s time for a new one after about nine years of use.

So why does less sleep equal more weight? Researchers believe that too little sleep can affect hormones in your body that regulate hunger. Another theory is that you are less likely to be active if you are tired. Other studies have suggested less sleep can slow your metabolism.


REPORT #2487

BACKGROUND: The amount of sleep a person needs is dependent upon several factors such as age, gender, etc. For instance, children tend to need more sleep than adults, averaging between 9-15 hours contingent upon their age. Furthermore, most adults should get approximately seven to nine hours a night for maximum productivity throughout the workday. However, the number varies based on the individual, and if an individual feels drowsy throughout the day, it could be a sign that they haven’t had enough sleep. Furthermore, it is also based on a concept called “sleep debt.” For instance, if a person has been deprived of sleep, the amount of sleep they need increases; our body does not adapt to getting less sleep but adjusts to a sleep-deprived schedule. It is essential to sleep because when an individual is deprived of sleep, their judgment, reaction time, and other functions that are important to have a productive day are severely impaired. For instance, too little sleep can cause memory problems, depression, contribute to a weakening immune system, and increase the perception of pain.



SLEEP DISORDERS: It’s normal for individuals to have trouble falling asleep sometimes. However, when there is a pattern of being unable to sleep, it could be the symptom of a sleeping condition. Many different types of sleep disorder have various causes. In central sleep apnea, the breathing is disrupted throughout the night because of brain functions. Moreover, insomnia is a sleep disorder that's characterized by an individual's inability to fall or stay asleep. Also, parasomnias refer to disruptive sleep disorders that occur during arousals from REM sleep or partial arousal from non-Rem sleep. Some of the indicators of parasomnias sleep disorder include nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, etc. Furthermore, a person could have a disruption in their circadian rhythm, preventing them from being able to fall asleep in a condition called ‘circadian rhythm sleep disorders’. Lastly, a person may be suffering from Narcolepsy which is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s sleep and wakefulness.



STUDY: There are dozens of studies that have shown the correlation between lack of sleep and increase in weight gain. For instance, the Nurses’ Health Study was the most extensive study regarding adult sleep habits and weight. The study followed 68,000 middle-age American women for 16 years. The study compared women who slept seven hours a night and women who slept five hours or less. They found that women who get less than five hours or less of sleep were most likely to become obese during the study. Furthermore, a similar study followed a group of young woman to look at the relationship between night shift and their circadian rhythms. The women in the studies had rotating night shifts which refers to having an irregular schedule that combines day and evening work with a few night shifts. The study found that the longer the women worked a rotating night shift, the more their chance of developing diabetes and obesity increase. Studies have also discovered that getting too much sleep may increase a person’s chance of being obese. Researchers refer to it as “ reverse causation” where people who sleep for the longer period may have an obese-related condition that has led to an increase in sleep such as depression, sleep apnea, cancer, etc. (Source: