I am frequently asked, "Can chronic insomnia lead to obesity?"

  • Evidence is growing suggesting that insufficient sleep may be a factor in some weight gain. Research conducted over a 16-year span at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, showed that women getting habitually five hours or less of sleep a night had a slightly increased rate of weight gain as compared to those getting at least seven hours per night. 
  • In addition, a Columbia University study indicates that individuals between 32-49 years of age sleeping less than seven hours a night have an increased average body mass index (BMI), with greater likelihood of obesity than those getting at least seven hours of sleep nightly.
  • There is also a correlation between higher BMI and getting to bed later and waking up late.

The Role of Hormones in Sleep Deprivation

Inadequate sleep is closely linked with the tendency toward obesity, and this link has been known for decades. However, in 2004, a researcher, Eve van Cauter, working in endocrinology at the University of Chicago, discovered that the evidence was more than statistical. There was a genuine physiological connection.

Two hormones associated with appetite, called leptin and ghrelin, are disrupted with inadequate sleep.

  • Ghrelin is believed to be involved with long term weight regulation in the body. When the stomach is empty, ghrelin is secreted by cells in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Ghrelin alerts the brain that it’s time to eat.

Fat cells send leptin into the bloodstream when there are sufficient levels of fat storage, so it acts to suppress or shut down appetite and the desire for food. Researchers found that when we don’t get enough sleep, the hormones start malfunctioning and deliver wrong messages to the brain. Lack of adequate sleep raises the levels of ghrelin and causes levels of leptin to drop.

This is not good news for your waist line. Your body is actually operating in reverse to what is natural so when it should be saying it's had enough food, it is actually sending out the message that more is needed.

The test subjects in the University of Chicago study were healthy, young male college students. With sleep deprivation, the test subjects craved much more high-calorie, high-density foods.

Within a week, subjects’ blood tests showed increased cortisol production (that hormone that is linked with higher levels of belly fat). Even more significant—the tests also indicated subjects’ inability to utilize insulin (insulin resistance) that mimicked patients with diabetes.

The subjects returned to normal health after catching up with their lost sleep.

The study done was small and more follow-up research with larger studies needs to be carried out, but the conclusion was that inadequate sleep increases high-calorie food craving which leads to eating more, which causes weight gain.

Another study involving subjects who slept fewer than three hours a night showed a 5% body weight increase.

Can Chronic Insomnia Lead To Obesity In The General Public?

A door-to-door survey held during the two-year period from 2004 to 2006 by The National Center for Health Statistics, involving over 87,000 adults, also showed the link between sleep loss and obesity. In the population of those getting less than six hours of sleep a night, one third were obese.

Of those getting seven to eight hours’ sleep each night, the rate of obesity was only 22%.

The same statistical links between obesity and lack of sleep show up in children and teens. Teens who do not get adequate sleep, especially REM sleep (the rapid eye movement associated with dreaming) tend to be overweight.

Clearly, getting enough sleep should be included as part of an overall health regimen of exercise and dietary considerations. Getting the proper exercise and watching your diet, besides enabling you to lose weight, may help you sleep better.

If you are already overweight, this could be one of the factors causing your inability to get adequate rest. They go hand in hand.

By the way, do you want to know more about how can chronic insomnia lead to obesity? Click on the link to go to a video which explains how to treat insomnia naturally and the guy tells of his agonizing journey through the deadliest side effects of sleep deprivation. 

Other Healing Articles By Mokie To Help You Beat Insomnia:

  1. Myths And Misconceptions About Insomnia
  2. Can Insomnia Compromise The Immune System?
  3. Can Insomnia Increase The Risk Of Heart Attacks?
  4. Can Chronic Insomnia Lead To Obesity?
  5. Does Insomnia Contribute To Your Weight Gain?
  6. How Chronic Pain Fosters Insomnia
  7. How Insomnia Slows Weight Loss And Muscle Growth
  8. How To Alleviate Insomnia During Pregnancy
  9. Home

By the way, do you want to know more about how can chronic insomnia lead to obesity? Click on the link to go to a video which explains how to treat insomnia naturally and the guy tells of his agonizing journey through the deadliest side effects of sleep deprivation. 

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