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Your Best Health: Adult Weight Management

Sleep-weight connection

What does sleep have to do with your weight?

So you’ve read about how being too tired to cook healthy meals or be active if you don’t get enough sleep can lead to gaining weight. What else happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Your hormones and metabolism change when you don’t get enough sleep. This may affect how often and how much you eat. You may feel hungry more often because the hormones that control your appetite are higher. You may also eat more because you’re awake longer or to try to stay awake.

Your brain has a “reward” area that gets signals when we do or see something we enjoy. This helps you to feel good. When you don’t get enough sleep, this area of the brain is more easily activated. This makes foods we like seem more appealing. When you’re tired, you also have less control over these signals and it’s harder to resist foods you like.

When you don’t get enough sleep, all of these factors may result in you eating more often and choosing less healthy foods. As a result, you may eat more calories than you need which leads to weight gain.

What Affects Sleep

Your body has a natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. This is your circadian rhythm. Some people call this your biological clock. Some things can interfere with your biological clock and this affects how well you sleep. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and certain medicines can affect your sleep. This causes your body to spend less time in the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage. Learn more about sleep stages.

Other things that can make it harder to get a good sleep:

  • some night-time routines, like using an electronic device within an hour of your bedtime
  • certain medical conditions and sleep disorders
  • noise around you, such as traffic or loud, distracting music
  • stress such as pressure at work or day-to-day demands
  • working shift work

Most people use some type of electronic device in the hour before going to bed at least a few times per week. Using devices like computers, tablets, smart phones, and LCD TVs can keep you awake if you use them too close to bedtime. The light from these devices turns on receptors in your brain to lower the release of hormones that promote sleep. In other words, keeps you awake longer.

It’s not just the light. You may want to consider how you use your electronic devices. Are they affecting what time you go to bed? Do you lose track of time playing games, searching the web, or reading blogs and end up going to bed much later than you planned?

Something to think about...

Go to your reflection journal and check off the statements that you relate to.

How do you feel when you don’t get enough sleep?
How well do you feel you usually sleep?
Rate it on a scale of 1 (not well at all) to 10 (very well).
Check the statements that you relate to.
What do you think might be interrupting your sleep?​