Why is Sleep Good for Your Waistline?

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We all know sleep is good for us. Positive things come about from getting a plenty of rest. When you get a full nights sleep (7-9 hours for adults according to the National Sleep Foundation) you wake feeling energized, clear minded, and ready to tackle the day, right? Many of us in our busy lifestyles struggle to get at least 5-6 hours of sleep, and think getting 5-6 hours is actually “normal.” Not only can lack of sleep lead to weight gain, but it can also leave us feeling irritable and sluggish throughout the day. (Who wants that?! Not me!) Besides being tired and in a bad mood from minimum sleep…have you ever made the connection between lack of sleep and weight gain? With 2/3 of American’s being overweight or obese, getting enough sleep to prevent weight gain seems like an easy resolution. 

  • Genetic connection: Sleep deprivation may promote the expression of genes related to obesity. 
  • Ghrelin: Ghrelin (discovered in 1999) is known as the “hunger hormone” which controls our appetite. This hormone communicates with our brain telling us when we are hungry and influences our desire for food. Lack of sleep has been studied and shows coorelation with high levels of ghrelin and obesity. Therefore, it is important to get 7-9 hours of sleep to control ghrlein levels. This will help prevent making rash decisions when it comes to choosing what to eat during the day. Bottom line: lack of sleep can increase the appetite hormone and may lead to weight gain. 

Those two reasons alone are big factors in connecting sleep and weight gain. There are also dietary choices individuals can make to ensure a good nights sleep:

  • Caffeine: Watch out for consuming caffeine too close to your bedtime. Caffeine can remain in your body for ~6 hours and disrupt a good nights sleep.
  • Alcohol: Despite its initial sedating effect, it can prevent rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the deep stages of non-REM sleep during the night. Limit your alcoholic beverage to 1 drink for women, 2 for men and don’t forget to always hydrate with water! 🙂
  • Large meals: Consuming bigger meals before bedtime can result in indigestion. This is a good excuse to practice portion control! Also, be weary of drinking too much fluids before bed time since it can wake you up to urinate several times during the night. 

Despite the populations hectic lifestyles, it is still important to get between 7-9 hours every night. 🙂 Go catch some zZzzzzz’s!


  1. Watson NF, Harden P, Buchwald D, Schur E., Goldberg J. Sleep duration modifies the heritability of body mass index. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, 2011. Accessed March 28, 2012.

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