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Sleep it off! Why Your Lack of Sleep is Making You Fat!

August 28, 2018

Believe it or not, we are often sick, diabetic, suffering from heart disease and cancer and most notably getting fat because we don’t sleep. We sleep for 3-4 hours less than we did in 1910 for an average of about 6.5 hours a night. It all started with the invention of the light bulb and now our levels of ‘busyness’ and corresponding stress levels are literally killing us!


We are fat and getting fatter!


Studies show:

  • Getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep and more than 8.5 hours of sleep was linked to higher body fat

  • High quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat

  • Waking and going to sleep at the same time every day (particularly a consistent wake time) was most strongly linked with lower body fat.


There are several reasons why sleep duration and quality affects your waistline.


Energy Starved: When we’re tired from lack of sleep and low on energy, our bodies will crave energy dense foods to get us through the day and this usually means we go for unhealthy options. Research has found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions and leads to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.


Snack Overload: The more hours you spend awake the more time you have to snack! If you are staying up late you might find the time to add an extra snack or two to your daily food intake that you wouldn’t have eaten had you been asleep.


Mental Fatigue: Lack of sleep affects your mood, your motivation and your willpower. Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions.1 The result is generally ‘I don’t care I am having that donut’.


Sleepy Hormones: Sleep loss results in changes to the levels of several hormones including leptin, ghrelin, insulin, cortisol, interleukin 6 and growth hormone.2 These hormones work to regulate our appetite, metabolism and satiety (feeling of fullness after eating). Changes in these hormone levels due to a lack of sleep may contribute to increasing our hunger and desire for energy-dense foods.


Energy Output: If we are feeling tired and lethargic we have less energy for exercise. It becomes that much harder to get off the couch and we may not be bothered to get in the kitchen to cook ourselves a healthy meal, going for the take away option. Not getting enough sleep starts to affect not only your energy intake, but also your energy expenditure.


So what to do?




The table above outlines a few well known tips to help you sleep such as avoiding stimulants, don’t eat within 2 hours of sleep, no electronic screens before bed, make the room dark, keep your feet warm and make sure the room temperature is right but above all these sits managing your stress levels.


Thanks to Kerryn Odell (certified nutritionist) & T.S. Wiley & Bent Formby, Ph.D. for research.


Tune in next time to see how closely linked sleep, stress and fat loss really are and what you can do about it!


As always feel free to email me on for any questions or further information.

Life is an adventure!


Matt Crowe (BA Human Movement)

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