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Is Lack of Sleep Making You Fat

Woman sleeping soundly. Related Service: Sleep Medicine for Women

We know that sleep is good for our health. But could a lack of sleep be the reason you're unable to lose weight or, worse yet, the reason you're gaining weight?

Recent studies identified a relationship between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of weight gain. If you're not getting the proper amount of sleep—at least seven hours—you put your weight goals in jeopardy.

Lose weight while you sleep. Could it be that simple? While it may sound like something you'd hear on a late-night infomercial, incorporating sleep into your weight loss strategy is a much healthier (and cheaper) option than trying other quick weight loss products.

When you get the proper amount of sleep, you protect your body from the effects of sleep deprivation, which can impact your weight in the following ways.

Sleep Deprivation Messes with Your Hunger Hormones

Sleep affects two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which play a vital role in your hunger level. Leptin tells your brain when you're full, and ghrelin tells your brain when you're hungry. Sleep deprivation decreases your leptin levels, which means you don't feel as satisfied after you eat. Additionally, a lack of sleep raises ghrelin levels, stimulating your appetite. This means that a lack of sleep will leave you feeling hungry, which makes maintaining or losing weight an even bigger challenge.

Fatigue Leads to Poor Snacking

We've all been there, fighting that "two-thirty feeling" and struggling to keep our eyes open. For most people, two-thirty in the afternoon isn't the time to take a nap—whether you're at work or picking the kids up from school. So instead, you reach for that coffee or a quick sugary snack to power through the day. But if you get the sleep you need, you can stave off afternoon hunger with a healthier, low-calorie snack and stick to your weight loss goals.

Being Tired Takes a Toll on Your Mental Well-Being

When you don't get enough sleep, you can become cranky. You can also become stressed, anxious, and depressed, all of which can result in weight retention and a lack of motivation to exercise. Additionally, stress and anxiety can send you seeking out "comfort food," which usually doesn't bode well for your waist line. By getting the required amount of sleep, you'll set yourself up to take on the day with a good head on your shoulders.

Less Sleep Means More Time to Eat

As obvious as it may be, the longer you're awake, the more vulnerable you are to snacking. You can't snack when you're asleep. So rather than cracking open a pint of ice cream while you watch television, try turning in early for the night. You'll wake up feeling refreshed, and won't have to bear the guilt of an empty ice cream carton.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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