You snooze and you lose…weight that is!

Man trying to close jeans

How would you feel if I told you that by adding 30 minutes to two hours to your sleep every night, you could lose as much as 30 pounds in a year without changing anything else about your lifestyle?

By Dr. Barry Aaronson

The research I’ve done suggests that how much you sleep can affect your appetite during your awake hours. My own experience is that on days when I’m sleep deprived I’m more hungry the next day, tend to overeat and usually unhealthy foods at that.

A Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist, at the N.Y.Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St.Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital found that sleep deprived patients burned the same number of calories as the well-rested, but consumed 300 more calories per day. Approximately 3,500 calories equals a lb of weight gain. An extra 300 calories per day equals approximately a weight gain of 30 lbs. per year.

Sleep habits wreak havoc with your metabolism and hormone production. Dr. Michael Breus found that too little sleep leads to a slower metabolism which triggers your body to release the hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite. Stress also increases cortisol, which is why you can eat everything including the kitchen sink when you’ve had a really bad day at work, a fight with a friend, or worries about finances.

If you are trying to get by on less than 7.5 hrs of quality sleep, two critical hormones are also affected-ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you “I’m hungry, feed me” and is secreted more when sleep deprived. Leptin, on the other hand, says “I’m full, can’t eat another bite” and is produced less when sleep deprived.

Adolescents today are famous for engaging in those intimate, colorful texting conversations to one o’clock in the morning and frequently sleep no more than 6 hrs per night. A Karen Mathews, Ph.D. at University of Pittsburg tracked 245 healthy H.S. students in 2012 and measured their insulin resistance (ability of cells to respond to the action of insulin in transporting glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into muscles and other tissues). High Insulin resistance leads to obesity and the onset of type 2 diabetes. When these healthy adolescents increased their sleep by just one hour per night, their insulin resistance dropped (i.e. improved) by almost 10%, thereby decreasing their chances of becoming obese or developing diabetes.

Changing your sleep duration doesn’t guarantee that you will not gain weight, but it moves your hormones production in the right direction and makes it much easier to maintain a healthier lifestyle.


Mike Breus, Why lack of sleep could be making you fatter, Amer. Journal of Clinical Nutrition,, 2015

Karen Mathews,et al Sleep duration and insulin resistance in  healthy black and white adolescents, Sleep, Oct.,2012

Wang, American Physiological Society,(APS), March,2015

WebMD,Sleep and weight gain,2015


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