How Does Sleep Deprivation Cause Weight Gain? (And How to Fix It)

Posted May 2024

How Does Sleep Deprivation Cause Weight Gain? (And How to Fix It) - The Collagen Co.

Let’s play complete the sentence. “Sleep deprivation is linked to …?” Fine, the title was a dead giveaway; the answer is weight gain. Research over the past 2 decades paints a clear, consistent picture:

  • “Short sleep duration is a significant risk factor for weight gain and obesity.” (2022 review)
  • “Insufficient sleep plays a role in the risk of obesity.” (2012 review)
  • “Multiple epidemiologic studies have shown an association between short sleep and higher body mass index after controlling for a variety of possible confounders.” (2008 review

So, the question now is: why? Why is missing out on a couple of hours of zzz’s akin to hitting the turbo button on your weight?

Also, since sleep deprivation is often part of the adulting experience — think wall-to-wall deliverables during crunch time or caring for a newborn — can you somehow sidestep its weight-gain-promoting effects? Let’s explore.

How sleep deprivation drives weight gain

Before tackling how sleep deprivation causes weight gain, it would help if we were all on the same page about the definition of sleep deprivation

It’s going for a whole night without sleep or not getting enough sleep for 1 or 2 nights. 

What constitutes “enough sleep” can vary from individual to individual (interestingly, a handful of lucky people are genetically wired to thrive on less sleep), but the general recommendation for adults is between 7 and 9 hours nightly. 

Now, back to answering our first question.
Scientists have found evidence that sleep deprivation drives weight gain through 3 primary mechanisms:

  • Hunger hormones: Sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and decreases leptin levels. For the uninitiated, ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” responsible for telling your brain that you’re, well, hungry, while leptin is the “fullness hormone” that signals — yep, you know where this is going — satiety. Think of it essentially as a one-two, seriously-appetite-stimulating punch to your body.

  • Brain reward systems: To add fuel to the fire, sleep deprivation also appears to amplify reactivity throughout your reward brain networks to pleasure-evoking stimuli. This makes you more likely to give in to the temptations of fast foods and unhealthy, ultra-processed foods laden with added sugar, fats, and calories. 

  • Physical activity: When you’re running on, say, 3 hours of sleep and in “survival mode,” sticking to your exercise routine is probably last on your priority list. In most cases, the exhaustion will also see you less active throughout your day: e.g., choosing to order in instead of heading out for a meal where you’d clock more steps. 

  • All in all, sleep deprivation increases calorie intake while decreasing energy expenditure. Given that weight hinges on calorie balance (i.e., calories in vs. calories out), the natural result is weight gain.  

    Is weight gain due to sleep deprivation unescapable?

    Thankfully, no. Here are a few things you could do to prevent sleep deprivation from exerting an upward force on your numbers on the scale.

    Expose yourself to bright, natural light in the morning 

    As appealing as it may seem, don’t sleep in or bury yourself in work immediately upon waking up. 

    Instead, go for a short walk around the neighborhood — soak up all the morning sun rays (please still wear sunscreen!) 

    The exposure to natural daylight positively influences your circadian rhythm, so you’re primed to sleep earlier, for longer, and enjoy improved sleep quality, allowing you to play “catch up” with your sleep debt in a much healthier way. 

    Plus, as a bonus, the walk also helps you keep your energy expenditure up.

    Go easy on the caffeine

    Yes, caffeine is life juice. 

    But chugging too much means caffeine may still be circulating in your system at bedtime, compromising the quality of your sleep. Limit your caffeine intake to no more than 400 mg (roughly 4 cups of brewed coffee) and cut it off within 6 to 8 hours before bed. 

    Fuel with well-balanced, nutritious meals

    Make conscious decisions about what you eat throughout the day. 

    Prioritize complex carbohydrates for a sustained release of energy and lean proteins to keep cravings at bay

    But … What if you don’t have access to nutritious meals? 

    May we introduce you to our Glow Shakes, complete, nutritionally balanced, low-calorie meal replacements designed to support your weight management goals? 

    To offer a tiny preview, every serving delivers 29+ grams of satiety-promoting protein, 5+ grams of gut-loving prebiotic fiber, and 24 vitamins and minerals in just 205 calories. Don’t think we need to say more.

    Go to bed as early as you can

    If you’ve (finally) knocked off every item on your to-do list, avoid “revenge bedtime procrastination”, the phenomenon where you put off going to bed for leisure and entertainment (e.g., binge-watching TV shows, scrolling through social media, and reading). 

    Those “10 to 15 minutes” — or so you tell yourself — often turn into 1 or 2 hours. 

    And before you know it, you have raked up yet another night of sleep deprivation. So, be disciplined. Set a bedtime and stick to it. 

    A few tips for better sleep: keep your room cool and comfortable, limit screen use, and avoid eating too close to bedtime. 

    Going to bed as early as you can sounds good, but what if your mind is still going at a million miles an hour when your head hits the pillow? 

    You toss. Then turn. Hello, sleep deprivation round 2 (or 3)? It doesn’t have to be this way. 

    Not with The Collagen Co’s Collagen Dream Advanced Sleep Formula Hot Chocolate, a soothing blend of sleep-supportive ingredients (from magnesium to L-theanine to passionflower and more) that help you unwind, sleep soundly, and wake up rejuvenated and glowing

    Also, hot chocolate! Mmm, just imagining the sheer joy of sipping a cozy cup of chocolatey goodness before bedtime has us closing our eyes in delight — sold! 

    Same for you? Then click here and get the sleep you’ve always dreamed of.

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