Is Lack of Sleep Causing Your Weight Gain?


A lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind.  Inadequate sleep increases the risk for many health issues such as: diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. It also slows the metabolism, causes weight gain, hormone imbalances and inflammation.  The impact that a lack of sleep can have also extends to mood regulation as well as memory and decision-making skills.

Did you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? 

The three main purposes of sleep include the following:


  • To restore our body and mind.  Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
  • To improve our brain's ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
  • To conserve some energy to use for future needs. 


In 2006 a study that followed more than 68,000 women for 16 years looked at the “Association between Reduced Sleep and Weight Gain in Women”. It found that those who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to gain more weight than those who got seven hours of sleep a night. Insufficient sleep dulls brain activity, specifically in the frontal lobe which is responsible for impulse control and decision making. This can most certainly lead to poor decisions due to a lack of mental clarity when it comes to food choices. In addition to the dampening of the frontal lobe, the brain’s reward center is stimulated when there is a lack of sleep. Stimulation of this area causes a person to look for something to make them feel good and this is often sugar and carbohydrate laden foods that feel comforting.  

There are 2 very important hormones that control our appetite center and a lack of sleep can cause an imbalance in these hormones leading to weight gain and/or weight resistance. Sleep deprivation increases a hormone called ghrelin which triggers appetite and decreases one called leptin which signals that you are full. 


Difficulty sleeping can be a short term situation or can turn into a chronic problem. The following list describes issues related to chronic sleep disturbances:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Micro sleeps or “nodding off”
  • Zoning out in a conversation or task
  • Altered memory or judgment
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making simple decisions
  • Clumsy and/or slower reaction times
  • Feeling emotional for no apparent reason
  • Snoring (sleep apnea)
  • Routinely falling asleep within 5 minutes of lying down
  • Waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep


Below are some tips to help you get the sleep you need. It is also important to remember that getting too much sleep (over 9 hours) can be just as unhealthy.

  • Get tested! Find the underlying cause to your sleep issues. If you have tried all of the tips below and you continue to suffer with insomnia- get tested. A simple hormone imbalance or food allergy can be the underlying cause of your sleep issues. Contact our office to book an appointment. 
  • Consistently maintain regular bedtime and waking up hours as much as possible.
  • Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Get to bed no later than 11pm- go to bed 15 minutes earlier each week until you reach no later than 11pm.
  • Avoid caffeine consumption (tea, cola, coffee, chocolate) after 12pm.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid daytime naps.
  • Avoid eating a meal 3 hours before bedtime (a light snack can help avoid hunger pangs and aid sleep).
  • Avoid alcohol as the body metabolizes alcohol while we sleep- even just one ounce within 2 hours of bedtime will disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid stressful or noisy distractions while trying to sleep (noisy clocks, bright lights, uncomfortable clothes or bedding).
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Take a relaxing bath with lavender and chamomile aromatherapy added to the bath water.
  • Turn the lights down low throughout the house or light candles. Turn off the screens as the electromagnetic rays from computer screens, TVs etc. are very stimulating.
  • Make sure your room is as dark as possible-turn alarm clocks away from your head- use blackout curtains if light is entering through the windows.
  • Turn the heat down- maintaining an average of 21°C (70°F) in the bedroom has been shown to be the best temperature for the production of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin.
  • Remove clutter- keep your bedroom as neat and clutter- free as possible.
  • If you get up to go to the bathroom during the night, keep the lights off- any light that enters the iris of the eye can shut down melatonin production.
  • Keep a journal- if endless mind chatter is keeping you up, then write down your thoughts or to do lists in a bedside journal to allow your mind to calm down.
  • Sleeping with pets or children can be very disruptive for sleep- have them sleep in their own beds.
  • Use the bed for sex and sleep only -no TV, laptop computers etc.
  • Try one of the following natural, non-addictive sleep aids to help you to sleep: