The Correlation Between Sleep & Weight

By: Meredith Price

Published: February 18, 2019

When you think about your wellness routine, what usually comes to mind? For most, it might be a combination of a few areas such as exercise, nutrition, meditation, and self-care. Why is it that sleep seems to be overlooked? How important is this vital function when it comes to our wellbeing and health? Turns out—extremely important and most of us (2/3rds of Americans) don’t get enough. Lack of sleep contributes to many detrimental health conditions including an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, decreased immunity and overall mortality. If that’s not enough, lack of sleep may be derailing your wellness goals as it contributes to weight gain and a higher body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and body fat percentage when compared to individuals who do get adequate shut eye. Think you might not be getting enough? Read on!

Studies are mixed on exactly how much sleep adults require but the general consensus is 7-9 hours while less than 6 hours per night is defined as “lack of sleep”. So why exactly do less hours of slumber affect our weight? Although the exact mechanism is currently unknown, many studies have established what the relationship between weight gain and inadequate snoozing might be. When we don’t sleep enough, there tends to be an increase in appetite for snacks, fats and carbohydrates. This ultimately leads to an increase in food intake, calories, and junk food. Additionally, individuals who don’t get enough sleep are awake for longer periods of time which means more opportunities to eat. Furthermore, with extra hours spent awake, we might want to eat more food for sustenance. Hormones may also play a role in that those that regulate hunger and satiety may be affected by lack of rest, leading to increased hunger. No matter how it’s happening, there is definitely a strong correlation between not getting enough slumber and our weight status.

So, how can we aim to get better and longer durations of sleep while benefiting our overall health and waistline? Despite popular belief, there is inconsistent evidence that any foods or supplements such as milk, chamomile tea, tart cherries, turkey (because of the tryptophan), melatonin, vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin B6, or magnesium actually aid in promoting a longer trip to dreamland (though there is no serious harm in trying them). Some proven methods to improve the quality and duration of sleep include having a consistent fitness routine, going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day (even weekends), turning electronics off at least 90 minutes before going to bed, creating a relaxing environment in the bedroom such as dimmed lighting and a cooler temperature, getting into a relaxed state prior to bed such as through meditation, avoiding caffeine after 3PM, and avoiding dinners and evening snacks that are high in saturated fat.

Based on all of the information that we have on sleep, it’s definitely something that should be added to an overall picture of health and wellness. Sleep is just as crucial as your fitness routine and eating enough fruits and vegetables. If you’re someone who struggles with maintaining a healthy weight and wonders why, start tracking how much sleep you’re getting. It might surprise you that it could be the culprit or at least a contributing factor as to why you’re not reaching your goals. For the sake of overall health, everyone should focus on getting an optimal night’s rest. Sweet dreams!