Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain

Sleeping coupleMany Americans are suffering from lack of sleep and sleep disorders. The problem is that sleep is as essential for your health just as food and water.


The amount of sleep needed depends on your age, as well as other factors. Infants need up to 16 hours of sleep per day and teens need around 9 hours of sleep each day. Most adults require 7 to 8 hours a night. Some people need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. If a person has been sleep deprived for a few days, more sleep is generally required.


In the June 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study was published on sleep duration and caloric intake. This study was conducted at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. Thirty men and women lived and slept in a research center where their sleep patterns and diet were studied. They found that participants who were sleep deprived felt less energetic and actually consumed an average of 300 more calories per day. This would eventually lead to weight gain.


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A researcher who studies sleep disorders at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has mentioned that sleep may have a role in how hormones control hunger and the foods that are chosen.


If you are tired do you feel like reaching for a piece of fruit or a sweet treat? Being drowsy may cause poor diet decisions compared to being fully rested. Also, when sleepy do you feel like exercising? Having low energy levels due to a lack of sleep may lead to a sedentary lifestyle.


The bottom line is that sleep may be influencing your dietary choices, energy levels and weight. If you are trying to lose or maintain weight, be sure to get a good night's rest every night.


The following tips may help create a restful sleep pattern:

  • Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Avoid napping in the afternoon or evening, as this can keep you awake at night.
  • Take time to relax before bedtime every night. Some people find that watching television, reading a book, listening to soothing music, or soaking in a warm bath helps them to relax.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature
  • Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow
  • Exercise at regular times each day, but not within 3 hours of your bedtime. Exercise may keep you feeling energized and cause you to remain awake.
  • Large meals close to bedtime may cause you to feel uncomfortable, which can keep you awake
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda and hot chocolate.
  • Drink fewer beverages in the evening to prevent waking up to use the bathroom and turning on a bright light, which can break your sleep cycle
  • Alcohol intake prior to bedtime does not help you get a restful sleep
  • Once it is time for bedtime, turn off the lights and give yourself about 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you find that you are still awake and not tired, get out of bed. When you feel sleepy try going back to bed.


UW Health's Registered Dietitians provide accurate, evidence-based nutrition information that promotes health and wellness to empower individuals to make healthy lifestyle changes that will enhance their health. Recommendations may vary based on your individual health history. For a personalized nutrition plan contact UW Health to schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian. For more nutrition information, visit the Nutrition and Health Library.