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Sleep and Obesity - What's the link?

Updated: Apr 13



If you are not getting enough sleep there is a good chance you may be also carrying some excess weight


Not getting enough sleep can lead to a vicious circle of overeating and further sleep deprivation


Sleep deprivation is associated with growth hormone deficiency and elevated cortisol levels, both of which have been linked to obesity.


Growth hormone deficiency or GHD is associated with increased body fat and lower lean body mass.


This causes further fat accumulation by reducing lipolysis. It becomes a catch 22 situation


Elevated cortisol levels can increase appetite with a preference for “comfort foods” and cause white adipose tissue to stay around the abdominal region


The two hormones that regulate appetite are Leptin and Ghrelin.


When you don’t get enough sleep, these hormones are altered in a way that creates an increased feeling of hunger. Plus, insufficient sleep can impair your metabolism of food.


The effects of sleep loss are not just limited to changes at the chemical levels. Restricted sleep duration has been shown to cause a greater tendency to select high-calorie foods.

Calories consumed late at night increase the risk of weight gain. By this, I don’t mean eating a bit of pasta, but high sugar, fat and salt foods, so ultra-processed foods just before going to bed! In turn, the foods can spike your blood sugar levels, meaning it is harder to get good quality sleep.


Furthermore, adults who don’t get enough sleep tend to get less exercise than people who sleep better, have regular sleep patterns, etc.


Our bodies are geared to working, eating and exercising during the day. Our bodies expect to sleep at night, so if you don’t sleep well or work night shifts you are doing what your body isn’t expecting.


Eating at night can lead to higher glucose levels and more fatty substances in the blood as the body is less able to break down and metabolise nutrients in the small hours.



What to limit eating wise?


Limit the caffeine drinks, and salty snacks (they only make you feel thirsty, then you want to pee all night!). Remember dark chocolate also has caffeine and even that hot cup of cocoa may disturb your sleep. Studies are looking at why high sugar foods lead to a bad night’s sleep.


What is better to ensure a restful night’s sleep


The Mediterranean diet shows that there is a 35% lower risk of insomnia and people who follow this type of diet are 1.4 times more likely to get a good night’s sleep. Why? Fish, eggs, nuts and seeds are high in melatonin producing tryptophan. Plant foods are good and don’t forget bananas!


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