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Does lack of sleep really cause weight gain and obesity?


Answer:  According to the research the answer to your question is that sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain but does not cause excess weight gain and obesity. In others words, those who sleep more each night tend to put on less weight than those who sleep less. You can review the findings in depth below.

The jury is still out on the specific relationship of sleep to weight. Although the reasons aren't clear, some research suggests that sleep deprivation alters hormones involved in appetite control and metabolism.  Whatever the reason, findings suggest that sleeping seven hours or more each night could help prevent the middle-age spread. The bottom line is excess weight gain is caused by eating more calories than you burn. So – you can prevent unwanted weight gain by eating less and becoming more active.

Here are some tips for getting good sleep from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

•    Follow a consistent bedtime routine.

•    Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.

•    Get a full night's sleep every night.

•    Avoid caffeine or any other stimulants before bedtime.

•    Be worry-free at bedtime.

•    Don't go to bed hungry, or too full.

•    Avoid rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.

•    Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little cool.

•    Get up at the same time every morning.


Here  are some of the findings:

In a study that followed more than 68,000 U.S. women for 16 years, researchers found that those who slept more each night tended to put on less weight during middle-age.

•    Women who slept only five hours were one-third more likely than those who slept for seven hours to have a substantial weight gain -- 33 pounds or more -- during the study period.

•    Sleep-deprived women were more likely to gain in excess of 30 pounds, and were 15 percent more likely to become obese as they grew older.

•    On average, women who in 1986 said they usually slept five hours or fewer per night gained more weight over the next 16 years than those who slept for seven hours per night or longer.


A more recent study surveyed 276 people for six years, dividing them into groups according to sleep time. Short sleepers slept five to six hours a night, the average seven to eight hours, and the long sleepers put in nine to 10 hours of sleep every night.  Conclusions:

•    Over six years, short sleepers were 35% more likely to gain 11 pounds than average-duration sleepers.

•    Over the same time period, long sleepers were 25% more likely to gain 11 pounds than average-duration sleepers.

•    Short sleepers gained 58% more around their waists and 124% more body fat than the average sleeper.


Study researcher Jean-Philippe Chaput of Laval University said the findings provide "evidence that both short and long sleeping times predict an increased risk of future body weight and fat gain in adults." Chaput adds that "these results emphasize the need to add sleep duration to the list of environmental factors that are prevalent in our society and contribute to weight gain and obesity.”

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