Many people live by the mantra, “Life’s too short to sleep,” a sort of glorified and praiseworthy way to live. Well, living by this mantra could actually be making your life too short. We all wish that we could easily forget the stressors of the day, count some sheep and dose right off into a peaceful abyss to catch some more ZZZs. However, the reality is that 50-70 million people in the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder, and over 48 percent report sleeping less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours per day, according to the American Sleep Association (ASA).

Based on statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those that reported less than seven hours of sleep per night have a greater risk of the following:Sleeping at Work

  • Heart attack
  • Obesity
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Depression
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Chronic kidney disease

This is a slew of health issues, almost all obesity-associated, and lack of adequate sleep could increase your risk for any one of them. A recent peer-reviewed study published in PLUS One supports these statistics by examining the relationship between sleep patterns, body measurements, body mass index (BMI) and overall metabolic health of over 1,600 participants between 19 and 65 years old. The study found that participants who reported less sleep had a higher BMI, larger waist circumference, poorly managed blood sugar levels, increased risk of metabolic syndrome and abnormal lipid panel readings.

How Does Lack of Sleep Reduce Your Ability to Lose Weight

We know that inadequate sleep increases your risk of developing obesity, but how? Let’s check out four major reasons why lack of sleep could be keeping the pounds on.

1. It’s hormonally stressful on your appetite to not get enough sleep.

We have all been there, awaking from a restless night, waking up feeling depleted, stressed and unable to control our emotions. We may even feel hungrier the day following a poor night’s sleep. Extensive research has reviewed the physiological derailment of appetite-influence hormones due to inadequate sleep. For example, a large review study published in Endocrine Development found that leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone released by fat cells, was at lower levels in those than obtained less sleep. Ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, was found to be at higher levels in those that were sleep deprived. A Stanford-based study found the same results. Both hormonal fluctuations result in an elevated appetite.

2. You have a higher risk of elevated blood sugars and reduced metabolism.

Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps our bodies regulate blood glucose levels and supports normal metabolic function. Research has shown that those who are sleep deprived may display insulin resistance, making it more difficult to use the glucose in our blood for energy, resulting in a higher blood glucose level. A small, randomized crossover clinical study found that sleep deprivation may lead to insulin resistance, as the insulin response in sleep-deprived participants (over a period of four nights) was 30 percent less than those who obtained adequate sleep. This could be from the body’s inability to completely repair and reestablish normal processes. According to a CNN Interview with Matthew Brady, a senior author of the study, the results denote the “equivalent of metabolically aging someone 10 to 20 years just from four nights of partial sleep restriction.” Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that just a single night of four hours of sleep promoted insulin resistance in healthy participants.

The mechanism behind insulin resistance in sleep deprivation is unclear. Some scientists speculate that, because lack of sleep may trigger our “fight or flight” stress response, cortisol and norepinephrine (adrenaline) levels increase leading to insulin resistance.

In this review study, lack of sleep has been linked to impaired glucose homeostasis (normalcy). Impaired glucose tolerance has also been linked to Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

3. You will probably eat more if you sleep less.

When our bodies are tired, we innately reach for a snack or meal to restore our energy stores. Food is fuel, after all. Not obtaining enough sleep may be different, however. Are our bodies truly fatigued or is lack of adequate sleep more of a mind-trick? Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that those who sleep less than six hours per night ate approximately 200 calories more (with a gravitational pull towards carbohydrates) in snacks than those who slept a little over eight hours. Meal consumption was similar among the two groups. A study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that those reported less sleep spent more time eating and drinking (approximately 8 minutes and 29 minutes, respectively).

4. You’re at risk for cognitive delay. moodiness and your motivation to eat healthy and exercise reduces.

Not getting enough sleep leads to decreased ability to make conscious decisions and perform tasks that require more energy than we are willing to dole out. Irritability, mood swings, depression, anger and anxiety are all side effects of inadequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to have a negative impact on long-term memory, according to a clinical investigation published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Lack of sleep can cause us to be moody, less motivated and experience memory loss, all of which lead to a disaster mentally and physically.

What Foods & Lifestyle Factors May Help You Sleep?

  • Almonds and Walnuts: Approximately 1/4th cup of almonds and walnuts contains 15-20% percent of your daily needs of magnesium. Magnesium has been shown to improve sleep quality and increase your changes of falling asleep faster.
  • Kiwi and other citrus fruits: Because of their antioxidant capacity, citrus foods have been linked to improved sleep. Kiwis also contain serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in sleep regulation.
  • Fatty Fish: Fish such as salmon and trout contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which has been linked to an increased production and secretion of serotonin.
  • Simple carbohydrates: Foods like white bread, white rice and those found in dairy products and fruits, may help shorten sleep onset. According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the consumption of high glycemic index foods four hours before bed resulted in a shorter sleep onset latency. Cautionary use of simple carbohydrates is recommended, and I ask that you do stick to a small-moderate portion (like a side dish) due to the other health affects that may occur due to an excessive amount of simple carbohydrate intake and an inadequate amount of complex carbohydrate intake.
  • Milk and other dairy products: Milk products contain tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, that can promote sleep.
  • Regular exercise: A meta-analysis reported that regular exercise and improved sleep quality go hand-in-hand.
  • If you have Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), do not eat too close to bedtime. Studies have linked those with GERD to increased acid reflux if any food is eating less than three hours before bedtime.
  • Try Meditation to destress. There is significant research connecting mindfulness and meditation with the improvement of various mental and physical health ailments. For sleep specifically, meditation has been linked to improved quality of sleep in those suffering from sleep disorders.

Try some of the following snacks before bed.

  • One medium sliced banana mixed with 6 oz Greek yogurt
  • 1/4th cup slivered almonds mixed with 1 cup of sliced strawberries and kiwi
  • One slice of French bread with 2 tbsp smeared Brie cheese
  • One ounce of lox salmon on three to four medium of your favorite crackers
  • ½ cup high fiber cereal with four to eight ounces of low-fat milk

There is no doubt that inadequate sleep can increase your risk of obesity, attributing to the obesity epidemic our world currently faces. It is difficult to slow down, but we must begin to make sleep a priority in our daily lives.


If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.

Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on

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