Does Sleeping Longer or Shorter Impact Your Weight?

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


The surprising connection between hours clocked sleeping and what the scale says

Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis won’t just make you tired—it will also likely cause your weight to rise. In fact, people who sleep for less than five hours a night are almost a third likelier to gain weight (30 pounds over the course of 16 years) than those who get seven hours of shut-eye a night.

What’s the Connection?

There are actually a lot of factors at play here. One is that a lack of sleep can affect the way your body regulates appetite, making you hungrier than you would be if you were well-rested. Specifically, your body gets a boost in ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and a reduction in leptin, a hormone that makes you feel satisfied. And, chances are, the foods you’re going to crave aren’t apples or spinach. Instead they are going to be foods that are high in fat and calories.

Another reason is common sense: The more time you spend awake every day, the more time you have to eat! The concept of a “fourth meal” comes from people staying up later than they should and getting hungry. Even if you don’t eat a full meal, chowing down on late-night snacks can definitely lead to weight gain. Then there’s the motivation to exercise. The less sleep you get, the less energy you have to go to the gym. Lastly, depriving yourself of sleep can actually slow down your metabolism, meaning you burn fewer calories on a daily basis.

How Weight Impacts Sleep

The connection goes the other way, too. Those who are overweight have a higher chance of suffering from sleep issues. For example, more than half of those who suffer from sleep apnea are overweight. Carrying around extra weight adds fat tissue to your neck area, and that additional fat tissue can press on your throat as you sleep and cause it to close up briefly. The good news is that you don’t need a drastic change on the scale to see a difference—even a small amount of weight loss can improve your sleep apnea.

Is Sleeping Too Much Bad For My Weight?

All of this begs the question: What happens to your weight if you sleep too much? While there is sometimes a correlation between sleeping a lot and being obese, it isn’t necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship. People who sleep for long chunks of time may suffer from depression, cancer, or other issues that can also lead to obesity. If you suspect that you're sleeping too much, check out this article and talk to your doctor.

Kids, Weight, and Sleep

Sleeping too little doesn’t just lead to weight problems for adults. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are at a higher risk for weight gain. And it starts early. If at age three a child is sleeping less than 10½ hours a night, there is a 45 percent higher risk that he or she will be obese by age seven. (This is compared with three-year-olds who are sleeping 12 hours a day.) And if an infant is sleeping less than 12 hours a day, he or she has twice the chance of becoming obese by age three compared with an infant who is sleeping more than 12 hours a day.