The Surprising Way Your Sleep Patterns Affect Your Weight


Sleep deprivation feels as bad as it looks. Too little—as well as too much—shuteye can wreak havoc on your body. A morning glance in the mirror isn’t your only confirmation that this is true. New science is emerging that connects the amount you snooze with the amount of weight you gain.

“At one point, scientists started to realize that the obesity epidemic and the trend of people sleeping less were not occurring independently,” says Namni Goel, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, Pearlman School of Medicine Division of Sleep and Chronobiology at University of Pennsylvania. It appears that when the hours we log at night are too little, hormones, metabolism, insulin sensitivity, decision-making skills, and waistlines pay the price.

How exactly does sleep debt affect the scale? When people don’t catch enough high quality zzz’s, the hormones regulating hunger, leptin and ghrelin, go haywire. Leptin is a hormone produced in fat cells that inhibits hunger and jumpstarts fatty tissue into burning energy. Levels plummet when you get less than seven hours of sleep a night, making your stomach feel empty even when it’s not. The hormone ghrelin is produced primarily in stomach cells, and levels rise with sleeplessness, stimulating hunger, slowing metabolism, and decreasing the body’s ability to burn fat. At the same time, there’s a rise in insulin resistance, a precursor for diabetes, and the stress-hormo…

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