Jan 22

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Does lack of sleep make you fat?

I woke up early Saturday morning sick. As I woke up the room was spinning. I sat up and the spinning quickly passed but when I went to lay back down, it started again. I recognized the symptoms because I have had them before. A couple of summers ago I was getting these spins while sitting down, after a couple of days I decided it was best to go to the doctor. The diagnosis is fluid in the middle ear, which causes room spins and throws off balance. Luckily it isn’t painful, but the dizziness can cause nausea.  The doc showed me how to rock back and forth to break up the fluid and eventually it goes away on its own.


But Saturday morning at 3:00am, I discovered I had it on both sides and had to try and sleep sitting upright. As you can guess, this doesn’t allow you to get much sleep. All day Saturday I was exhausted and my body was trying to find energy supplies. You would think it would just use the extra fat stored in my body for fuel, but we know although this sounds nice, it isn’t the case.

I WAS HUNGRY! All day I was hungry. And when you are tired and hungry you don’t make very good food choices. I was craving carbs – the pastry kind. Luckily, I didn’t have any in the house and I was too tired to bake. However, that didn’t stop me from searching. I had oatmeal, a chocolate protein shake, chicken soup with rice, a hamburger on a bun, toast with jam, and finally asked my sweetie to “please go and get some tortilla chips so I can have chips and salsa”…which he did. Then I had dinner, which was Greek chicken on naan, salad and hummus. See all the starches listed?


I said all that to say this…..lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain. Here is what happens in our bodies when we don’t get enough sleep.


  1. You metabolism slows down. Your body doesn’t know why it’s staying up and reacts as if you are in some type of crisis, so it responds by slowing the metabolism to reserve fuel resources.
  2. Your cortisol hormone level goes up. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, which increases during times of physical and physiological stress. It stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy which increases your appetite.
  3. Your stop and go hormones retaliate. Two hormones, Ghrelin, the “go” hormone, which plays a role in appetite stimulation and leptin, your “stop” hormone that tells you when it’s time to stop eating get out of whack. Your Ghrelin kicks into overdrive because you are so tired, making it almost impossible not to overeat.
  4. When you are tired, and your Ghrelin is running the show, you are almost always going to make poor food choices. Your body wants comfort food to calm you down and it searches for carbs to increase your serotonin levels.


So let’s recap: Lack of sleep leads to exhaustion, metabolism slows down, body responds to stress by increasing cortisol which accumulates in the midsection, ghrelin kicks into overdrive making you overeat all the wrong things because your body is trying to find a way to increase serotonin to calm down.

So, can lack of sleep contribute to weight gain? – Yep. Make sure you get plenty of zzz’s every night; the recommended amount is 7-9 hours. If you get less than 7 hours, try taking a power nap during the day to help combat fatigue. I have discovered that if I don’t set my alarm, I will sleep 8-9 hours every time.

See full infographic here: http://pinterest.com/greatist/infographics/

How much sleep do you get each night?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.get-fit-naturally.org/2013/01/does-lack-of-sleep-make-you-hungry-and-fat/

1 comment

  1. Brandi

    Great post! I get that inner ear a lot and it always makes me feel off balanced. Rather inconvenient sometimes :). I really try to get 7 hours, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I get up really wary so my body tells me around 9:00 that it’s time for sleepy land :).

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