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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Rodgers

How Lack Of Sleep Is Making You Fat: The Unexpected Link

Updated: May 22, 2023

black and white photo of women sleeping.

Lack of sleep is an often overlooked health concern that can devastate your physical and mental well-being. In this article, we will explore the unexpected link between lack of sleep and weight gain, its underlying causes, and what steps you can take to ensure you get those much-needed hours of rest each night.

The Unexpected Link Between Lack Of Sleep and Weight Gain

Lack of sleep is a common problem that can have serious consequences. One of the most unexpected and potentially harmful effects of insufficient sleep is weight gain.

There are many reasons why lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. For one, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to crave high-calorie foods. You’re also less likely to have the energy to exercise, and sleep deprivation can disrupt your body’s natural appetite-regulating hormones.

But the link between lack of sleep and weight gain goes even deeper than that. Research has shown chronic sleep deprivation can change how your body stores fat. So if you’re not getting enough shut-eye, you may be more likely to pack on pounds—even if you’re eating healthy and exercising regularly.

If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, there are some simple things you can do to improve your sleep habits. Creating a bedtime routine, cutting back on caffeine, and avoiding screens before bed can help you get the restful night’s sleep your body needs.

Research Showing the Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain

Person weighing themselves on a scale.

A new study has found that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that when people are sleep deprived, they tend to eat more and make poor food choices.

The study examined how sleep deprivation affects two hormones regulating hunger: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, while leptin is a hormone that decreases appetite. The researchers found that when people are sleep deprived, their ghrelin levels go up, and their leptin levels go down. This hormonal imbalance leads to increased hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods.

The researchers also found that when people are sleep deprived, they tend to choose high-calorie foods over healthy foods. They believe this is because sleep deprivation alters how the brain processes food information. When you’re tired, your brain is less able to evaluate the healthfulness of food and more likely to focus on its calorie content.

So if you’re trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight, getting enough sleep is important. Aim for seven to eight hours per night. You may need even more sleep if you’re stressed or have an active lifestyle.

How Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Metabolism and Hormone Levels

In addition to affecting our metabolism and hormones, lack of sleep also leads to fatigue. Fatigue makes it harder to exercise and stay active, which can further contribute to weight gain. So if you're not getting enough sleep, you may be inadvertently sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

Finally, lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our mental health. When we don't get enough rest, we may be more prone to anxiety and depression. This can further lead to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain. Sleep quality is essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism and hormone levels. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night to keep your metabolism and hormones in balance.

Strategies for Getting More Sleep

Several strategies can be employed to get more sleep. One is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This helps to regulate the body’s natural sleep rhythm. Another strategy is to create a relaxing bedtime routine, including 30 minutes before sleep and disconnecting from electronic screens. Creating a cool, dark, and quiet environment in the bedroom can also help promote better sleep. Finally, limiting caffeine intake and exercising during the day can also improve sleep quality at night.


Sleep deprivation is a serious matter and can have wide-ranging consequences, especially regarding weight. While lack of sleep does not directly cause weight gain, the hormones affected by inadequate rest can disrupt your body’s metabolism and make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. If you’ve been struggling with unexplained weight gain or losing control over your cravings, taking steps to improve your quality and quantity of sleep might be just what you need.

If you need primary care or sleep hygiene consultation, don't hesitate to get in touch with our office!

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