How are obesity and lack of sleep related?

A growing number of studies indicate a direct connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain. People who get at least seven hours of sleep each night tend to have less body fat than people who don't. Of course, food intake, exercise and genes are also factors in determining who becomes overweight and who doesn't. But sleep affects the process more than most people realize.

In one key study involving 9,000 people, researchers found that those who averaged six hours of sleep nightly were 27 percent more likely to be overweight than their seven-to-nine hour counterparts. When the average sleep duration dropped to five hours per night, 73 percent were more likely to be overweight.

Many people are sleep deprived and don't know it. Most researchers consider seven hours to be the minimum for all except the very young and the very old. You're probably sleep-deprived if you:

  • Typically are drowsy during a good portion of the day, especially the morning.
  • Are falling asleep at night in a couple of minutes. Most people who aren't sleep-deprived fall asleep in about 15 minutes.

If you are sleep deprived, a number of things are going on in your body that could contribute to weight gain. In scientific studies, the most commonly cited effects of sleep deprivation are imbalances in the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate appetite and metabolism.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.