Home Out and About Get Life: Can a Lack of Sleep Make You Fat?

Get Life: Can a Lack of Sleep Make You Fat?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

For Ebony Magazine, Erika Nicole Kendall on the connection between poor sleeping habits and weight gain


Early last week, a study was released that clearly outlined a pattern that many people are painfully familiar with: lack of sleep not only encourages the brain to develop a stronger connection to the sugar-fat-salt trifecta in certain foods, but also makes it more difficult to fight the cravings for it.


Originally, theories about poor sleep and metabolism ran the gamut. “People eat more because they’re awake more,” “people who are awake eat excess calories at night, causing weight gain,” “bodies ‘burn fewer calories at night,’ (thereby justifying the ‘don’t eat after 7PM’ rule),” and more all influenced people’s individual choices about what they eat and when they eat it. Now, there might be another argument for the sleep-food connection.

The study looked at the brain imaging of 23 subjects as they ate, while in various states of being rested or sleep-deprived. Apparently, reward-centers of the brain reacted stronger to junk food while sleep-deprived, than it did when well-rested. The lobes of the brain most responsible for regulating food choices responded more poorly in the sleep-deprived mind than in the well-rested one, as well.

Dr. Matthew P. Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley, spoke to The New York Times about the study:

“Their hunger was no different when they were sleep deprived and when they had a normal night of sleep […] that’s important because it suggests that the changes we’re seeing are caused by sleep deprivation itself, rather than simply being perhaps more metabolically impaired when you’re sleep deprived.”

Even without this small study, I think there are a few things we could ascertain about people’s natural behavioral patterns and how they relate to sleep and eating…read more


Talk to me, #bgg2wlarmy, about your sleeping habits. Do you think they’re affecting your day? How do you feel when you’ve gotten a good night’s rest in comparison to a poor night’s rest? Let’s hear it!

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ClaraLin August 15, 2013 - 7:25 AM

I 100% believe this. The night before last, due to humidity and sleeping in a new place, I tossed and turned all night and only ended up sleeping 3-4 hours all together. I originally had a 4 mile run scheduled for after work yesterday but felt way too beat from lack of sleep. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed. When I realized I couldn’t actually fall asleep at 6pm, I turned to mindless snacking for most of the night. Ugh.
A good nights sleep does so much for one;s mind and body!

Louise August 15, 2013 - 7:33 AM

Sleep (or lack thereof) always has a huge influence on my eating choices and mood in general. If I’m in bed by 11 every night of the week (even if I’m up at 6), that’s a week I’m going to be kicking ass at the gym and eating my veggies. If I slip into snoozing between midnight and 1 for more than one day I immediately feel the negative effects. Sleep is the glue that holds it all together for me.

marie August 15, 2013 - 11:37 AM

I crave pasta, pastries and chocolate when I’m sleep deprived. I rely on coffee a lot and feel I need this extra carb boost to get going…. I did not realize sleep was THAT critical… So the next days I will make the experiment to try to go to bed earlier to check how I feel… But that will mean skipping some workouts or find really short ones, I need to figure that out…

NiaX August 15, 2013 - 12:30 PM

I don’t see any difference in my eating habits when I’m well rested or not. I’m a night owl (quasi- self professed) and I don’t believe in the eating after 7pm ironclad rule folks think they need to live by. Know your body. Shrugs. Heck some folks can eat junk all day and stop at 7pm, and wonder why they aren’t losing weight. If you don’t know your body, you’re losing the battle.

Lena August 15, 2013 - 12:55 PM

I too believe this information to be true. In my experience, a lack of sleep is directly related to weight gain and low energy. In my mid twenties, I gained about 20lbs because I started working night shift and my entire circadian rhythm was thrown off. Now, in my early thirties, I am no longer working night shift but I haven’t been getting restful sleep. I’m a very light sleeper and I hear any and everything throughout the night, or I wake and check the clock for no reason at all. However, the last two weeks, melatonin and a very strict sleep schedule have turned things completely around. I’m sleeping more soundly, I have more energy, and I’ve been eating better. And as a result of all of this, I lost two pounds in a week’s time. Hooray for good sleep.

Maria August 19, 2013 - 1:19 PM

What happen when a person over sleep? On the days that I don’t work. I spend most of these days sleeping (10-12 hrs), eating in bed and watching TV in bed.

My sleep patten is different. I can sleep all day, and during the night I am wake.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 19, 2013 - 4:23 PM

I’d wonder about how active you are – do you live in an area where you can walk around freely (and safely)? Why spend so much time sleeping? Do you have a high-octane, high-adrenaline job? I’d wonder about the quality of your sleep, the quality of your diet, and whether or not you’re excessive sleep is indicative is something more problematic. 🙁

Jan August 25, 2013 - 9:50 PM

I not only dislike being tired in itself but I have a whole heap of negative associations with being in that state, so if I’m at all tired I will do absolutely anything to wake myself up. I’ve never got into caffeinated drinks (maybe because I knew I’d abuse them if I did), my nemesis is sugar. That little buzz it gives me is so hard to resist. I also spend more money online when I’m tired because making a purchase gives me enough of a high to wake me up a little! All I can do is keep up my habit of not buying high-sugar foods and step away from the computer!

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