Sleep Deprivation and Obesity
A growing body of research suggests that there’s a linkbetween how much people sleep and how much they weigh. In general, children andadults who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enoughsleep. (1)
For example, in the Nurses’ Health Study, researchersfollowed roughly 60,000 women for 16 years, asking them about their weight,sleep habits, diet, and other aspects of their lifestyle. (2) At the start of thestudy, all of the women were healthy, and none were obese; 16 years later,women who slept 5 hours or less per night had a 15 percent higher risk ofbecoming obese, compared to women who slept 7 hours per night; short sleepersalso had 30 percent higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of thestudy, compared to women who got 7 hours of sleep per night.
There are several possible ways that sleep deprivation could increase thechances of becoming obese. (1) Sleep-deprived people may be too tired toexercise, decreasing the "calories burned" side of the weight-changeequation. Or people who don’t get enough sleep may take in more calories thanthose who do, simply because they are awake longer and have more opportunitiesto eat; lack of sleep also disrupts the balance of key hormones that controlappetite, so sleep-deprived people may be hungrier than those who get enoughrest each night.
1. Patel SR, Hu FB. Short sleep duration andweight gain: a systematic review. Obesity(Silver Spring). 2008; 16:643-53.
2. PatelSR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleepand weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol.2006; 164:947-54.
The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source is to provide timely information on diet and nutrition for clinicians, allied health professionals, and the public. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The information does not mention brand names, nor does it endorse any particular products.