Is There a Link Between a Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain?

February 10, 2020 , ,

Cutting your nights short might increase your waistline? This is what I will try to clarify in this article.

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According to the recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation, an adult should sleep between 7 to 9 hours a night. However, in Canada, more than 1 in 4 adults do not comply with these recommendations, which has an impact on health and particularly on weight.

Numerous studies on the subject have put forward a close link between a lack of sleep and being overweight. For example, people who are chronically sleep deprived are more likely to be obese, gain weight, have a higher waist circumference as well as body fat percentage than those who sleep seven hours or more.

The mechanisms that could explain this link are still under study. However, one could explain this correlation due to the following factors:

      1) Hormones

Sleep helps regulate the hormones of hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin). When sleep hours are not sufficient, the level of ghrelin increases and the level of leptin decreases resulting in a disturbance in our signals of hunger and satiety.

      2) Nutrition

Studies show that people who lack sleep tend to eat foods with a higher caloric density and consume between 200 and 600 more calories per day. When we feel tired, we are less inclined to cook and turn to commercial or restaurant food products, which are often less interesting from a nutritional point of view because they are more fatty, more salty and sweeter. In addition, fatigue can cause impaired judgment and decision making which can affect food choices.

      3) Physical activity

Just as we are less likely to cook, a tired person will be less likely to move. Which is a shame because exercise has many benefits including improving the quality of sleep.

Thus, by eating more and moving less, weight will be more likely to gather on the body.

This relationship between a lack of sleep and weight gain does not spare children either. In effect, some researchers have associated poor sleep in children with weight problems in adulthood, and a lack of sleep has been shown to increase the risk of obesity in children.

In short, if you are starting a lifestyle change aimed at losing weight, pay close attention to what you put on your plate but also to your sleep. Make sure you get enough and quality sleep by paying close attention to your environment before bedtime and during the night.



Kathryn Adel
Kathryn completed degrees in kinesiology and nutrition, as well as a Masters in Sports Nutrition. She is a member of OPDQ and of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health. Kathryn is experienced with the low FODMAP diet and she completed the Monash University low FODMAP dietitian's training.

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