So, you have been going through your exercise drills, following the exact diet plan that your nutritionist or diet expert recommended, constricted your calorie intake by sacrificing your favorite food but you still can’t seem to lose those extra pounds? You have blamed your fitness expert and dietician, read through numerous blogs and articles but to no avail. What you and your experts might be missing out on is a seemingly unrelated question.

Are you getting sufficient sleep?

Yes, if you are not getting sufficient sleep your body will punish you for it by gaining unnecessary weight and derailing you from your diet.

Numerous studies and research conducted independently across the world over the last decade all point toward the same direction: Lack of sufficient sleep leads to weight gain.

Below are several research conclusions that demonstrate the impact of poor sleep on weight gain:

– A major review found that inadequate sleep duration can increase the risk of obesity by 89% in children and 55% in adults.

– In another study conducted over 16 years with 60,000 non-obese nurses, it was found that the nurses who slept less than five hours per night were 15% more likely to be obese than those who slept at least seven hours a night.

– In another short study, it was found that 16 adults who were allowed just five hours of sleep per night consecutively for five nights gained an average of 1.8 pounds (0.82 kg).

Additionally, the lesser sleep you get, the more weight you gain that further leads to more sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

How exactly sleep leads to weight gain?

1. Lack of Sleep Slows Down Your Metabolism

Lack of sleep has a direct impact on the resting metabolic rate or RMR of an individual. RMR is the number of calories an individual’s body burns when at complete rest and is only by biological factors such as age, weight, height, sex, and muscle mass. But, it is now been found that sleep has a direct impact on an individual’s RMR.

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In a study, 15 men of similar age and BMI were kept awake for an entire day. After 24 hours, it was found that their RMR had declined 5% compared with a normal night’s rest and their metabolic rate had plunged to 80% of normal functioning.

Researchers suggest that this is because lack of sleep causes muscle loss due to the heightened levels of Cortisol caused by the additional stress on the brain. Cortisol has been found to break down muscle protein, thereby, more calories are burn from muscles than from fat. So, when the body loses muscle, the resting metabolism slows down. A person’s RMR might be reduced by 100 calories per day for a loss of 22 lbs or 10 kg of muscle.

2. Sleep Deprivation Disrupts Dietary Hormones


Sleep deprivation manipulates the brain to release irregular levels of hormones. It increases the levels of the appetite hormone, called ghrelin, and reduces the levels of the satiety hormone, called leptin. Thus, you feel hungrier even if you haven’t engaged in any additional physical activity or if you have taken your regular diet. This often causes people on weight loss diet from getting derailed and putting on additional calories.

Further, when the levels of these key hormones are affected the body is predisposed to weight gain and obesity as the cells build resistance to insulin, which is often the precursor to diabetes.

A study of over 1,000 people revealed that sleep deprived individuals had 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels than those who received adequate sleep.
The short sleepers were also found to have inflated Body Mass Index (BMI).

3. Lack of Sleep Increases Cortisol Levels

Cortisol, a stress hormone, has a direct influence on blood sugar levels and leads to obesity, especially leading to belly fat. Any amount of weight loss initiatives will come to a halt when your cortisol levels are elevated.

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Research has found that even a night of sleeplessness may lead to dramatic increase in cortisol level. In a study of 33 men for 32 hours, in which some slept for a regular eight hours, some slept half of that, and some didn’t get any sleep, it was found that the cortisol levels of the three groups varied considerably. The cortisol levels increased by 37% and 45%, respectively, for those who slept for four hours and those who didn’t get any sleep.

4. Lack of Sleep Makes You Crave for Comfort Foods (High-Cal, High-Fat)

Sleep deprivation not only increases your appetite by manipulating the appetite hormones (Ghrelin and Leptin) but also increases the craving for comfort foods, such as snacks and desserts that are high in calorific value and fat content. The brain loses the battle against unhealthy food when the body’s blood sugar levels have gone for a toss.

A study of 12 men revealed that when subjects slept for only four hours, their calorie intake shot up by 22% and their fat consumption doubled, compared to when they received the appropriate sleep – typically eight hours.

5. Lack of Sleep Leads You to Consume More Calories than Usual

Sleep deprivation impairs decision making and cognitive skills. Thus, even though you have more hours to be active by sleeping less, you will not be able to utilize them in a healthy way i.e., engage in physical exercise or eat healthy food. In fact, it is the opposite. People who get sufficient sleep are more energetic and eager to maintain a healthy diet than those who are sleep deprived.

Sleep deprivation has a direct impact on the portion size and meal cycle of a person. What do you do when you have extra time at hand but no physical energy – you EAT! Accept it, a late-night movie marathon or a Netflix binge session is best accompanied with tasty (high-cal) food.

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A study conducted in 2012 found that when participants slept just 80 minutes lesser each night, their average intake of calories increased by about 550 calories the next day. Improper sleep can have a direct impact on the portion size of an individual.

6. You’re more likely to get the late-night munchies.

It makes it way harder for the brain to make a healthy choice and resist tempting foods. Sleep deprivation actually alters the way your brain functions. It dulls activity in the frontal lobe of the brain which is in charge of rational decision-making and self-control.

In fact, it appears that food or late-night snacks stimulate the reward centers of the brain. As you lose optimum rational thinking, your healthy decision making takes a back seat. So, what are we talking about? Yes, late-night munchies. More time on the clock means more time left to access the fridge. And, late at night, the ice-cream bowl seems a much better option than the bowl of salad.

This phenomenon was explained by a study done recently on sleep deprived people. It was found that such people produce more of the lipid, called endocannabinoid, that makes eating more pleasurable. It acts almost like a drug that makes people eat more.

A recent study showed that the bodies of sleep deprived people produce more of a lipid called an endocannabinoid, which is responsible for making eating so pleasurable. This lipid acts on the brain in a very similar way that marijuana does in giving people a strong desire to eat. Sleep deprivation can increase your desire to eat foods that are not good for your diet.

So, the next time you find yourself struggling to lose weight, do check whether you are failing to get sufficient sleep. To figure how much sleep you need and what are the symptoms of sleep deprivation click here.

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