What sleep has to do with obesity

Are you burning the candle at both ends? Staying up late, getting up early or just not sleeping well?

You’re tired but that’s not really a problem, is it? Well, it turns out that it is…

According to a new study, if you’re running a sleep deficit, you have a very real chance of packing on unwanted pounds.

Here’s why…

Cravings, cravings and more cravings

The study from researchers at University of Cologne, Germany and published in JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience’s first journal, set out to untangle how sleep deprivation affects your decision-making processes and hormones and influences your food choices.

Participants visited their laboratory for a standardized dinner on two separate nights.

At each visit they were told to either return home after the meal to sleep normally or to spend the night at the lab, where they would be kept awake.

The researchers then assessed their desire for snack foods, brain activity, and hormone levels the next morning after each night of sleep or total sleep deprivation.

And, they found that…

Sleep loss increased the subjective value of food compared to non-food items independent of hormonal effects. In other words, not sleeping increases your cravings for junk food.

Their neuroimaging results also revealed increased activity in a circuit involving the amygdala and hypothalamus (two areas of your brain that control how much you eat) after sleep deprivation.

According to the researchers, these results show just one way a lack of sleep can promote overeating and increase your obesity risk.

Disrupted metabolism

And, scientists have proven, that it’s not the only way not getting enough sleep can cause weight gain.

Researchers from Uppsala University discovered that metabolic functions that are regulated by your skeletal muscle and fat tissue are adversely affected by disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms.

And, they went on to prove that lack of sleep results in a tissue-specific change in DNA methylation. In other words, it can change which genes are turned on and turned off.

“It is interesting that we saw changes in DNA methylation only in adipose tissue, and specifically for genes that have also been shown to be altered at the DNA methylation level in metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Epigenetic modifications are thought to be able to confer a sort of metabolic “memory” that can regulate how metabolic programs operate over longer time periods. We therefore think that the changes we have observed in our new study can constitute another piece of the puzzle of how chronic disruption of sleep and circadian rhythms may impact the risk of developing for example obesity,” notes Jonathan Cedernaes who led the study.

Blood sugar problems

And, that’s not all…

Lack of sleep can also lead to blood sugar problems.

In fact, a study out of University of Chicago Medical Center found that sleep deprivation can disrupt fat metabolism, elevate levels of free fatty acids in your blood and reduce the ability of insulin to regulate blood sugars.

Put simply, lack of sleep can lead to diabetes – a condition that goes hand-in-hand with obesity.

Better sleep for weight management

Clearly, if you want to keep off unwanted pounds, you have to make sleep a priority.

To improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, check out the recommendations from Dr. Isaac Eliaz, renowned integrative medical doctor and researcher, on how to support your natural circadian rhythm and homeopathic remedies that provide time-tested insomnia relief.

And, don’t forget Jenny Smiechowski’s five tips for healthy sleep.

Good sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy weight. Get quality rest to decrease cravings, improve your metabolism and stabilize your blood pressure.


  1. Unraveling the link between obesity and sleep — American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  2. How sleep loss may contribute to adverse weight gain — Uppsala University
  3. Link between sleep loss, diabetes explained — University of Chicago Medical Center


Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.