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How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Weight

Scale with person's feet next to it

We all know that overeating can lead to weight gain. But did you know that you can also gain weight by not sleeping enough? Although many factors can affect your weight, poor sleep is also a risk factor for obesity.

How does sleep loss lead to weight gain?

Sleep is an essential modulator of your body’s ability to control glucose metabolism and neuroendocrine function.

Not getting enough sleep creates a hormonal imbalance in the body, leading to overeating and increased weight. Hormones like leptin and ghrelin are responsible for regulating your appetite. So when you are not getting enough sleep, the production of these hormones is altered in a way that increases your appetite. Sleep deprivation can also lead to growth hormone deficiency and elevate cortisol levels in your body, linked to obesity. Additionally, studies have proven that lack of sleep affects your body’s metabolism.

When you lack sleep, you tend to reach for high-calorie, comfort foods like pizza, or thanks to your nose- or olfactory system- which goes on hyperdrive and sharpens food odors for your brain. Eating high-calorie foods increases the risk of weight gain, especially when these foods are consumed at in teh evening or at night when your body is at rest- giving it no chance of burning the calories off. Furthermore, individuals who do not get enough sleep get less exercise because sleepiness causes fatigue and lethargy during the day.

General Sleep Concerns in People Who Are Overweight

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

People who are overweight suffer from GERD, a condition where food from the stomach backs up to the esophagus, causing heartburn. GERD can be very uncomfortable, especially when lying down, making it associated with disturbed sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA is a prevalent sleep disorder and is seven times more common in individuals who are overweight or obese. It occurs when throat muscle tissues relax during sleep, making it difficult for air to enter your lungs.

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea are prone to choking or gasping for air during sleep, causing them to wake up many times at night. Although weight affects one’s risk for OSA, it can increase symptoms in overweight people.

Asthma

Excess weight in the chest and abdomen can constrict the airways and the lungs, making breathing difficult. Fat tissues produce inflammatory substances that may impair lung function and lead to asthma. When you have a BMI of 30 or higher, you are more prone to developing asthma than people with lower BMI. Many individuals with asthma often experience nighttime symptoms that lead to sleep disturbances.

Tips on How to Get Better Sleep

People who are overweight or obese and have trouble getting a good night’s sleep must practice “sleep hygiene,” which means doing healthy practices that support restful sleep. Having a predictable sleep schedule, practicing healthy habits, and creating a bedtime routine, can increase the likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep, especially if you are overweight. Here are some tips you can follow:

Diet and nutrition. Eating a healthy diet can be challenging for people who suffer from a lack of sleep. So try to take steps to maintain a balanced and healthy diet to promote good sleep. Avoid eating right before bedtime and eating foods high in carbohydrates late in the day, as these may make it difficult for you to have a deep sleep.

Be active. Being physically active can improve your sleep quality and reduce symptoms in people with obstructive sleep apnea. Exercising outdoors exposes you to the natural light from the sun, which can help you have a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging due to many factors. Before making changes in your lifestyle, consult your physician to learn about all the interventions available that fit your circumstances.

 

 

Curtis Harvie, DNP, FNP-BC, AHN-BC

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