Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain Connection

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Seek adventures in life. This will motivate you to stay active.

Seek adventures in life. This will motivate you to stay active.

How many of you have a tendency to stay up late and then eat too much before bed time?  Or do you lack a good night’s sleep because of daily stress, anxiety or snoring while you sleep?  Do you wake up with little energy and then eat too much throughout the day?  Believe it or not there is a connection between these causes of your sleepless nights and weight gain.

Most are unaware when we lack a good night’s sleep we are then sleep deprived and our body is chemically stimulated internally and then activated to gain weight.  Much of this cause and effect has to do with one or more behavioral habits, environmental stressors and/or medical disorder that cause us to lose sleep.  And when we lose sleep our internal body’s hormonal and metabolic conditions shift to crave more food.

Let’s first address staying up late at night and eating too much before bed.  At night when you don’t sleep “for whatever reason” your body continues to burn energy and you feel hungry.  Instead of sleeping, you’re prone to eat more.  And this is the worse time to eat when the body’s metabolism is at its lowest metabolic burn rate.  Staying up late and watching Television and eating fattening food snacks are behavioral habits that don’t help in maintaining healthy body weight.

However, if the reason you do this is because of a bad habit of watching late night TV, the good news is this habit can be changed.  The not so good news is… if this habit is caused from chronic stress, anxiety and/or depression; behavioral therapy and/or medical treatment may be needed to address a primary medical condition prior to changing a secondary bad food habit used as a comfort crutch.

When you stay up late or don’t get enough sleep and if this trend continues, you’re going to feel low motivation to work, exercise, or even work on relationships, etc.  But a worse effect often results from sleep deprivation, i.e., food cravings that cause us to eat more than we would otherwise.  This is likely the result of hormonal and metabolic imbalances caused from sleep deprivation that attempt to resolve the body of feeling bad, or experiencing low energy levels.  And this feeling is typically coupled to a varying degree; a depressed mind-body [known as psychosomatic relationship].  Sleep deprived individuals are often unaware of these internal mechanisms and how they internally activate to provide the body a feeling of normalcy.

“The lack of sleep also changes the balance of hormones in your body, especially ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin spurs you to eat, and leptin tells you when to stop. When you are sleep-deprived, your body creates more ghrelin and less leptin; this leads to more eating, additional calories, and extra weight gain (Brooks 2014).”  “In fact, have you ever experienced a sleepless night followed by a day when no matter what you ate you never felt full or satisfied?  If so, then you have experienced the workings of leptin and ghrelin (Bouchez 2014).”

Also when tired you’re more prone to feel stressors and anxiety associated with the daily grind.  Why?  Because you lack the energy to mentally and physically shield yourself of their effects within your internal environment.  And when the body feels overwhelmed and depressed, then the mind and spirit is also less able to cope these stressors.

Sleeping disorders and behavioral habits can cause acute and chronic depression.  “People with insomnia often wake repeatedly during the night and don’t feel rested in the morning.  Insomnia can cause or worsen fatigue, already a symptom of depression.  ‘Sleep is clearly linked with mental health and insomnia is considered a hallmark of depression (Tracey 2014).”

Your weight gain nemesis may be directly related to any number of internal or external environmental conditions, or stressors that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.  Then you may feel depressed and eat for comfort; or your body tells you it’s time to eat even when not hungry. Or by simply not getting enough sleep the fat cell is unable to release its stored energy.

    “For years researchers have known that adults who sleep less than five or six hours a night are at higher risk of being overweight. Among children, sleeping less than 10 hours a night is associated with weight gain.  ‘Now a fascinating new study suggests that the link may be even more insidious than previously thought.  Losing just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row can lead to almost immediate weight gain (Parker-Pope 2013).” 

    “Perhaps the largest study to track the effects of sleep habits on weight gain over a period of time was presented by the American Thoracic Society International Conference in 2006. The study that included nearly 70,000 middle aged women specifically pointed out those women who sleep 5 hours or less per night generally weigh more than women who sleep 7 hours per night (Menopot 2014).”

It’s interesting to note within the fat cell itself, there is a physiological responses to metabolic hormonal imbalances caused by a poor night’s sleep.  In other words studies show us the longer one goes without sleep causes fat cells to malfunction by preventing its release of stored energy.  And for those that experience too many sleepless nights the risk of diabetes, circulatory and cardio health risk increases with weight gain.

“To investigate, Matthew Brady at the University of Chicago and his colleagues tested fat cells taken from the bellies of seven adults after four nights of sleeping up to 8 and a half hours, and then again after four nights on a measly 4 and a half hours.  The team found that after sleep deprivation fat cells from the same person were on average 30 per cent less responsive to insulin – a hormone that makes muscle, liver and fat cells take up glucose after a meal.”

“High blood glucose levels are linked to diabetes. Fat cells also normally release the appetite-regulating hormone leptin [tells you when to stop eating]. Brady suggests that if sleep-deprived cells are generally malfunctioning, this mechanism may also be disrupted, affecting weight gain (Hamzelou 2012).”

There are many reasons one may not get a good night’s sleep.  We’ve briefly touched on insomnia, behavioral habits and suggested environment stressors that keep us from getting a good night’s sleep.  But there are also medical conditions like sleep apnea, chronic depression and other medical disorders patients need help with in order to get a good night’s sleep, maintain healthy body weight and overall good health.

“It appears individuals can learn to change habits and behaviors through a natural process of removing an identified anxiety-stress stimulus.  Once the anxiety or stress trigger mechanism has been removed; anxiety and depression symptoms may be alleviated for many and go away never to return (Woodard 2010).”

Outside of environmental stressors and bad habits, there is a serious medical condition known as sleep apnea that causes many to lose sleep because of excessive snoring.  But it must be pointed out those who snore don’t necessarily have sleep apnea.  Which will become apparent after review of the summarized sleep study below.

Sleep apnea occurs during sleep and when muscle tissue is relaxed at the back of the throat in a way that partially occludes a clear airway.  In some cases, as more weighted tissue is involved around the throat area the structural airway integrity buckles and partially blocks it of free air passage.  This buckling can be thought of as a breach of the airway and in a way that causes excessive snoring.

There is also a neurological condition that is not a mechanical breach or related to an overweight condition.  Instead sleep apnea can occur due to the CNS (Central Nervous System) signaling the brain to stop breathing intermittently during sleep.  This type of breathing interruption is less understood but can be treated in the same way as a mechanical blockage using CPAP (Positive Airway Pressure) or dental device that keeps airway open.  Also both medical conditions of sleep apnea “mechanical and neurological” can also occur simultaneously.  In any event, dependent on medical diagnosis can be medically treated and/or surgically corrected to varying degrees of a successful outcome.

Those with sleep apnea repeatedly wake up because of snoring and occluded airway and May, or may not be consciously aware of doing so. But in almost all cases, those with untreated sleep apnea rarely feel they’ve had a good night’s sleep, feel unrested when they awake and are typically tired throughout the day.

Sleep apnea is serious business because respiratory failure and other health risk have led to death.  If you or spouse have a serious snoring problem, or stop breathing intermittently during sleep, or can’t sleep for whatever reason… see your physician and request a sleep study test.

Sleep Study Tests Show the Following Results:  While asleep, those with sleep apnea unknowingly experience episodes where they stop breathing.  This can occur 5-50 times per hour and up to 300 times during regular sleep.  But if the “non-breathing” episodes only last seconds or less, this does not appear to have a significant health risk to the body.  But if one is sleeping and averages 30 “non-breathing” episodes per hourly average where breathing stops up to 10 second intervals minimum between breaths, this is where serious health risk increases and incremental/accumulative damage to the heart occurs.  While loved one(s) and friends assume you simply have a bad, loud obnoxious snore, this could in fact be an indicator of something far worse than irritating those around you.  And also be aware, just because you snore does not mean you have sleep apnea.  Only a sleep study test can prove this for sure (Woodard 2010).

When we snore and wake up repeatedly, or get little sleep for whatever reason we lack in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.  While under REM our skeletal muscles are deeply relaxed and we dream and our food intake throughout the day is better regulated because our hormones and metabolism is refreshed, energized and balanced optimally.

It is especially important if you suffer from stress, anxiety, obesity, respiratory, or other disorder that causes you to lose sleep, seek medical treatment.  Treatment may include anti-anxiety, depression and/or behavioral therapy with, or without hormonal or prescription drug treatment.  If overweight you may also be tested for diabetes, heart and circulatory health, etc. Tests and treatment recommendations may also include sleep study test, CPAP (Positive Airway Pressure) or other device treatment, surgery to alleviate sleep disorder condition, etc.

Regardless of what prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep it is possible to target the problem of your sleep deprivation for sake of your health and overall wellbeing.

Developing or resolving good sleep habits and patterns will support healthy body weight, reduce daily stress and anxiety levels; and will provide the feel good energy to live the lifestyle you need, want and deserve.

Works Cited and Article Resources,

Bouchez, Colette. “The Dream Diet: Losing Weight While You Sleep.” Review. Web log post. WebMD. WebMD, LLC., 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Brooks, Dominique W., MD, MBA. “Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain.” LoveToKnow. LoveToKnow Corp., 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Hamzelou, Jessica. “‘Tired’ Fat Cells Might Trigger Obesity.” NewScientist. Reed Business Information Ltd., 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.

Menopot. “Insomnia and Weight Gain.” Insomnia and Weight Gain. Menopot, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “Lost Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Tracy, Natasha. “Depression and Sleep Disorders.” HealthyPlace. HealthyPlace, 8 Sept. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Woodard, Marc T. “Defeat Anxiety and Panic Attacks.” Web log post. MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. MirrorAthlete Inc., 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Woodard, Marc T. “Sleep Apnea an Insidious Angel of Death.” Web log post. MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. MirrorAthlete Inc., 23 July 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2014 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.

About Marc Woodard

As a fit healthy lifestyle author and consultant, retired corporate employee and retired Army officer, I’ve spent many years taking care of my career goals and financial security.  It is now my time to give something back to my community.

Without a healthy mind, body and spirit it is really difficult to move forward to achieve great things in life. To share information is something everyone of us are capable of doing. And to share fitness and health related information with your children is the best thing you could do for them and your community.

Saving the health of our nation one person at a time is our goal.

Learn more about Marc Woodard @ LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/in/marc-woodard-94003930/

Good health to you and your family.

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