Why Lack of Sleep Could Be Making You Fatter

Sleepless nights don’t just ruin your mood the next day—they could also damage your waistline.

By Reader's Digest Editors
Not Enough Sleep© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Sleepless nights don’t just ruin your mood the next day—they could also damage your waistline. According to new research in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sleep deprivation can cause people to pack on extra pounds.

Researchers at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital found that sleep-deprived people seem to burn the same number of calories as the well-rested, but they consume about 300 more calories a day. Given that it takes just 3,500 calories to add a pound to your body, those calories can quickly turn into extra weight.

But there are several other reasons that sleep loss could lead to weight gain, says sleep disorder specialist Michael Breus. When we get too little shut-eye, our metabolism slows down to conserve energy. That slowdown triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite. Your body thinks it needs more energy, so it asks for more food.

In a vicious cycle, sleep loss also causes our bodies to release more ghrelin, another hormone that signals hunger, and less leptin, the hormone that tells your stomach that it’s full. With your hormones off-kilter, your body wants more food and lacks the sensitivity to know when to stop eating. Not to mention that being awake more hours gives you more time to snack.

“The later you’re up at night, the greater the likelihood that you’re going to eat,” Breus says. And “you’re more likely to eat high-fat, high-carb foods.”

One other contributing factor to such weight gain is that the body burns the most calories during REM sleep, a deeply restful phase. And less sleep means less time in REM.

For optimal health, experts say you should try to get 7.5 hours of sleep a night. If you have trouble sleeping, stick to a nightly routine, exercise during the day, banish worries to a journal, and keep pre-bedtime activities relaxing.

See also:

How to Sleep Better
Can You Sleep Yourself Thin?
Easy Ways to Catch More ZZZs

Sources: The Washington Post, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Toronto Sun, CNBC, Reuters

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  • Your Comments

    • Guest

      My problem is over eight hours of sleep a night. haha…..zZ

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lawton-Smeal/1366532862 Lawton Smeal

      Virtually any type of clothing, hats, etc. can be sterilized by merely putting them into a microwave for a minute or so, either before or after washing them. Whats the big deal? People are so naive that they’ll believe anything that someone wants to tell them. Sometimes some very good, or expensive clothing can be found, that can save a not so wealthy person a lot of money. don’t believe half of what you see, and none of what they tell you. Find out for yourself.

    • Linda

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    • guest

      This is so silly.  Yes, cooking it yourself is cheaper, if the tomatoes are free. I canned tomatoes when they were cheap and plentiful–8$ a box, I got 5 quarts of sauce, it took hours, and a quart of Hunts Spagetti sauce is less than 1$ a can. Plus in an unwatched moment your vat of sauce can scorch and then it’s all a waste.
      Crushed tomatoes are often more expensive than the Hunts or other low-cost brands.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/WGUCYV36IQQ5FMKXDQSNWQGFLM steve

      I get most of this, but #10 is way off.  I once nicely asked the “gentleman” in front of me if he could put his seat back up a little, as I was trying to eat (I’m a pretty tall guy).  He responded by repeatedly rocking his seatback back and forth in some kind of hissy fit while muttering obsenities.  So yeah, I had to tell the flight attendant about it since this dude was obviously unbalanced.  No, you’re not a pre-school teacher, but it is your job to keep confrontations from happening.It is not my job to police other passengers’ manic behavior.