Sleepless Nights May Lead to Extra Pounds
A new study indicates that not getting enough sleep increases appetite and leads to weight gain, due to hormonal shifts.
--by Jenara Nerenberg
Those who wonder why
their appetite increases after getting less sleep may feel vindicated to
learn there are a variety of hormones at work, according to a new study
published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
While the sleep-deprived may not be happy about the ensuing weight
gain, they may feel better knowing the increased hunger is not just in
their heads. When a person is sleep-deprived, a hormone called ghrelin
increases and another one called leptin decreases, both of which lead to
The solution? Get more sleep! This advice comes from the study authors after reviewing data collected over the past fifteen years.
The Expert Take
“Changes in these
hormones coinciding with an energy-reduced diet paired with changes in
response to partial sleep deprivation may be expected to increase
ghrelin and decrease leptin concentrations even further to promote
hunger,” says lead author Sharon M. Nickols-Richardson, PhD, MD.
“Various investigations, although diverse, indicate an effect of partial
sleep deprivation on body weight management."
The study points out that more than 35 percent of Americans are overweight, and more than 28 percent sleep less than six hours per night.
Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can set off hormonal imbalances that lead to increased hunger, which then leads to an energy imbalance and weight gain. The only solution is to get more rest, though the authors point out that further research is needed to understand the exact mechanism whereby lack of sleep induces hormonal shifts and hunger changes.
When you sleep less, you eat more—and when you eat more, you gain weight. So, if you're trying to lose weight or manage it, make sure you're getting enough rest (at least 8 hours per night). It's a simple yet effective way to help ensure you're on the right track to an optimal weight.
Source and Method
Researchers examined articles published between 1996 and 2011 that covered sleep deprivation, energy imbalance, and weight gain. They then constructed comparative tables to better understand the role that individual factors played in the published health outcomes—how the studies were conducted, caloric intake and expenditure, different demographics, and hormonal measurements.
deprivation and weight gain have been linked in past studies, including
the finding that shifts in ghrelin and leptin increase hunger. The American Journal of Epidemiology
published a study in 2006 that found that over a 16-year period, women
who were generally sleep deprived had a greater risk of weight gain or
In 2007, Sleep Medicine Reviews published a comprehensive study looking at the biological link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. The study also looked at how diabetes is related to sleep deprivation.
Finally, in 2008, the Journal of Sleep Research took an in-depth look at the hormone ghrelin, and found that just one night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and therefore hunger among otherwise healthy, non-obese men.