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Dream the Pounds Away: How Sleep Can Affect Your Weight

While you may be hitting the gym five times a week and cutting out fatty foods, you may not know that there is an easier way to control your weight: sleep. It sounds too good to be true, but a number of studies have shown a link between the amount of sleep you get and your weight.

Lose sleep, gain weight

Studies show that people who get less sleep at night are at a greater risk for weight gain and obesity than those who get 7-8 hours per night. There are many ways that losing sleep can lead to weight gain:

  • Increasing your hunger levels

According to a study published in PLOS Medicine, certain hormones that play a role in how hungry we are can be influenced by the amount of sleep we get. When you don't get enough sleep, your hormone levels change leading to an increase in hunger and a decrease in how content you feel after eating. This can lead to overeating and weight gain.

  • Decreasing your physical activity

This one may seem more obvious: people who do not get enough sleep will be tired during the day and less likely to work out. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who get less sleep tend to watch more TV and work out less.

  • Giving you more time to eat

It makes sense that if people sleep less, they have more time to eat since they are awake longer. Most of us have gone down to the kitchen to grab that midnight snack once in a while when we have trouble sleeping. But if you make it a habit, then you may find yourself with a few extra pounds on your frame.

  • Causing you to crave junk food

The amount of sleep you get can also affect the types of food you choose. One study found that when people do not get enough sleep they are more likely to crave junk food and less able to curb their cravings. Eating more fattening foods can lead to weight gain.

How much sleep do you really need?

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on their age and other things such as their health and lifestyle. Below is a table from the National Sleep Foundation with general sleep guidelines.

Age Sleep Needs
0-2 months 12-18 hours
3 to 11 months 14-15 hours
1-3 years 12-14 hours
3-5 years 11-13 hours
5-10 years 10-11 hours
10-17 years 8.5-9.25 hours
Adults 7-9 hours


To keep the pounds at bay, try to get a healthy amount of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping try:

  • Curbing the amount of caffeine you have later in the day
  • Turning off the TV in your bedroom
  • Setting a regular bed time for yourself

Keep in mind that just getting a healthy amount of sleep shouldn't be your only tool in managing your weight. It should be added to other healthy lifestyle habits such as working out and eating healthy.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, National Sleep Foundation, Harvard School of Public Health, WebMD, PLOS Medicine

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