Weight Gain Associated with Reduced Sleep in Women

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | March 14, 2017

Insomnia and sleep deprivation is known to produce unwanted side effects. While both sexes can experience these side effects, women, more than men, are affected by one side effect in particular—weight gain.

Why Does Less Sleep Lead to More Weight?

The connection between weight gain and insomnia is well-documented. In women, periods of reduced sleep can lead to increased food intake. The findings of one study by researchers from the University of Colorado, suggest that the reduction in dietary restraint that women experience is an adaptation mechanism that allows the body to procure a source of energy. Food offers an easily accessible way to recover the energy lost through sleep deprivation.

The Hormones at Play

Ghrelin and leptin are what we call hunger regulation hormones. They have a direct impact on appetite, and as a result, body mass.

Ghrelin is responsible for increasing the appetite. Whenever you feel hungry, that’s ghrelin at work. Leptin, on the other hand, suppresses the appetite. It’s produced by fat cells. The more fat cells you have, the more leptin your body will make, which means you will also feel less hungry. For weight loss, the ideal balance is less ghrelin and more leptin.

A deeper look into the body chemistry reveals reduced sleep triggers an elevation in ghrelin and a reduction in leptin levels. Further, chronic sleep loss could be a contributing factor to obesity in Western countries where food is plentiful and readily available.

Tips for Keeping Ghrelin Levels Down

Sleep is not something you can skimp on. To combat the side effects of sleep loss, including rising ghrelin levels, aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Increasing the fiber in your diet and reducing stress levels can also help reduce ghrelin production.

Sleep is a fundamental process to survival, so it’s not surprising that the lifestyles choices that can help improve your quality of life in other areas, can also help you improve your sleep habits. The reverse is also true. Restful sleep for the appropriate number of hours each night will have a positive impact on your mental and physical well-being.

For more advice on beating insomnia and getting more restful sleep, check out the other posts on our blog