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Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness
Health & Wellness


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Why Does Lack of Sleep Cause You to Gain Weight?



Numerous studies have shown that if we get less sleep than we need, our weight tends to increase. According to CDC, 18 to 60 years old adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night. In fact, sleeping fewer than the recommended 7 hours each night may increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.

Question is, why? Why does lack of sleep cause weight gain?


Would you agree with me if I say that when we think about managing our weight, diet and exercise are the two key factors that come to mind immediately, right? Yes, eating healthily and exercising regularly will help to keep our weight in check, no doubt.


But did you know that adequate sleep plays an important role too? I didn't know about this matter until recently. To be honest, it's kind of hard to accept until I look into the science behind sleep and weight loss.

What actually happens when we are sleep deprived?


I will talk about two things in this post. First, sleep deprivation slows fat loss and burns muscle. Second, lack of sleep triggers five different hormones that have a direct impact on your weight.



Sleep deprivation slows fat loss and burns muscle




According to The Science of Fitness - Sci-Fit, sleep deprivation will put your body in a catabolic state. This means you may gain fat and lose muscle mass.


Now you may wonder what's the relationship between fat gain and muscle loss.

Here's a very good description explained by Dr. Michael Roizen, MD: "Adding muscle to your body burns fat because, well, muscle needs energy to survive. A pound of muscle uses between 75 and 150 calories a day (remember, it's working and using energy), while a pound of fat only needs 3 calories a day (fat does nothing to help your body, the ingrate, so it doesn't need energy to maintain itself). Maintaining that friendly, fat-burning muscle mass only takes a few minutes—10 minutes, three times a week, to be exact."

This means, when you have lower muscle mass, your body couldn't burn fat effectively. In a nutshell, lack of sleep contributes to muscle loss which leads to harder to lose body fat.



According to the infographic above from, the conclusion as shown by studies is that sleep-deprived people lose more fat-free mass (i.e., muscle and water).


Now let's talk about the hormones.

Lack of sleep triggers five different hormones that have a direct impact on your weight


First, lack of sleep reduces your fat cell's ability to respond to insulin by 30% (less sensitive), which increases blood sugar levels that cause weight gain.



Second, your hunger hormone (ghrelin) goes into overdrive so your desire to eat high calorie food increases.


Third, the hormone that signals fullness (leptin) plunges, resulting in permanent hunger pangs and causing you to overeat.


Fourth, stress hormone (cortisol), surges with lack of sleep, making your body store more fat, especially in the belly.


Fifth, less deep sleep deprives your body of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), hence decreasing the rate at which your body burns fat.

How to sleep better?

I think for me, it starts with understanding why I should sleep for at least 7 hours. For an night owl like me, it's extremely difficult. However, there are a few things that can be done to start building a healthy sleep habit.


First, avoid large meals, alcohol, caffeine two to three hours before sleep. Second, develop a relaxing night-time routine including avoiding mobile phone and other sources of light that may interrupt your melatonin production. Third, establish a proper sleep environment free from noise and light. Fourth, adhere to a schedule even on weekends because by following a set schedule, you can help regulate your body's clock and stay asleep throughout the night.


Read more


The Science Behind Sleep and Weight Loss
Can lack of sleep cause weight gain?
Is a Lack of Sleep Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?
Does sleep affect weight loss? (Research Review)

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